WASHINGTON -- Conservation biologist Krithi K. Karanth of Bangalore, India, is the recipient of the National Geographic Society's 10,000th grant. Dr. Karanth saw her first wild tigers at the age of 2 at the side of her father, wildlife biologist and conservationist Ullas Karanth. Krithi Karanth works on human dimensions of conservation, such as human-wildlife conflicts, land use change and people-park relationships.
With the National Geographic grant, she will assess human-wildlife conflicts in five parks of India's Western Ghats. The project will identify and map risks and consequences for local people and the implications for conflict-prone wildlife species such as elephants, wild pigs, leopards and tigers. Field methods will include thousands of household surveys, interviews and mapping exercises.
India's rich wildlife has been severely reduced over the past century and continues to be threatened by habitat destruction, prey depletion, poaching and the global wildlife trade.
"The declines of species are so dramatic, widespread and so recent," Karanth said. "I wish I could have seen what the country was like in the 1800s with all this wildlife. In many parts of India there is human tolerance for some species, and this is why they still persist despite rapid changes in land use and high densities of people. This 'cultural' tolerance must be harnessed."
Karanth still remembers the first time she saw a wild leopard: "I saw a leopard first; maybe that's why I love them the most. The memory even 30 years later is etched so strongly. I was sitting in the front of a Jeep with my father and the late John Wakefield, and my mother, Prathibha Karanth, was sitting in the back. We were driving on a dirt road in Nagarahole National Park, maybe around 4 in the afternoon, and we saw this beautiful leopard bound across the road. The whole thing lasted maybe 30 seconds."
Most of National Geographic's 10,000 grants were made by the century-old Committee
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