I was born and raised in a cultural environment where forests and animals such as elephants and tigers are revered. Since my childhood days, developed passion towards the wilderness lead me to pursue a Masters in Botany and subsequently received an opportunity to work on a research project dealing with the Population Ecology of a Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) – the Indian Goose-berry. Through this work, I got to know the dimensions of human and animal dependence on forest-based resources and linkages with conservation of biodiversity in a human dominated landscape such as in Western Ghats. In addition to this, I was exposed to incidents of human-wildlife conflict, a major issue in biodiversity conservation in Western Ghats and more specifically in the Mysore-Nilgiri landscape (part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve).
As a doctoral student under ATREE-Manipal University PhD Program, I have chosen to work on wildlife corridors and human-wildlife conflict issues around Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT) Tiger Reserve part of Western Ghats, India. I plan to understand this issue through an interdisciplinary approach by involving ecological as well as sociological aspects.
Along with Soliga tribal community, BRT is rich in biodiversity, specifically home to tigers, leopards, elephants and wild dogs. The forest is endowed with rare and medicinally valuable plants that support livelihoods of forest dependents. BRT was once linked with Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) but now the linkage is severely disrupted due to fragmentation. People use these fragments for fuel wood, fodder and NTFP collection and farming in the corridor landscape leading to frequent human-wildlife conflicts. I study the forest structure and the extent of animal use of the forest-corridor landscape, frequency and the kind of human-wildlife conflicts, and conservation attitude of forest dependents. Through this study I plan to develop a management plan to restore and conserve the corridors with the partnership of the local community in this region.
I focus on biodiversity conservation with the involvement of local communities and forest managers, with particular emphasis on building local capacity starting from the school level.