Dr Vidya Athreya
Dr Vidya Athreya initially joined WCS-India in 2011. She currently works as the Senior Scientific Director. She obtained her MS in Ecology from Pondicherry in 1993 and a MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Iowa, USA in 2000. Dr. Athreya obtained her doctorate from Manipal University in 2012 for her thesis, ‘Conflict resolution and leopard conservation in a human dominated landscape’. Based in Pune, Vidya has been studying human-leopard conflict in Maharashtra for the past decade. She also works closely with Protected Area managers and the public to mitigate conflicts involving big cats.
Vidya has been working in landscapes of Western Maharashtra where leopards share spaces with humans. A member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, she has assisted in formulating state and national level policy guidelines on managing human-leopard conflict. Vidya’s research work has led to an increased awareness of large carnivores outside Protected Areas in India. Vidya was awarded the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in 2011, TN Koshoo Memorial Award in 2012 and the Maharana Udai Singh Award in 2013.To know more about her work, please visit: www.projectwaghoba.in and www.mumbaikarsforsgnp.com
Dipti is a wildlife biologist by training and a passionate nature educator. After completing her Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, she has been a part of conservation projects and developing and implementing awareness and education programmes in urban as well as rural landscapes. Over the last decade, she initiated the "Conservation Education and Outreach Programme" of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in the National Chambal Sanctuary, Rajasthan centered around gharial conservation. Following this she worked in Spiti and Ladakh with the Nature Conservation Foundation engaging with local communities, mainly school children, towards enhancing their fondness, knowledge and understanding of the local wildlife and issues therein. Dipti has also been associated with "Mumbaikars for SGNP", a citizen science initiative of the Maharashtra Forest Department that was formed to address the human-leopard interactions around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. She has been actively involved in managing interactions with residents, training and capacity building of media, police department and forest department through this project. Dipti currently coordinates the outreach component of the human-wildlife interactions project in Mumbai.
He has been with WCS-India since 2015 and has been conducting research on human-leopard interactions in Mumbai.
Rutuja Bhatade is a Research Assistant in 'Mumbaikar Waghoba' Project under the human wildlife interactions program at WCS India. Rutuja has completed M.Sc. in Zoology (Entomology & Biotechnology) from Mumbai University. Her academic interest lies in animal behavior, ecology, entomology, human-wildlife interaction & wildlife conservational studies.
Previously, she was volunteering with WCS-India on leopard monitoring projects and awareness programs in Maharashtra. She worked as an intern at WII (NMHS - Human-Wildlife Conflict project at Pauri, Gharwal) & WWF - India (Corridor monitoring at Western India Tiger Landscape).
Rutuja is keen to work on wildlife monitoring & conservation. Her primary interest lies in understanding the movement patterns of animals by monitoring them and mapping it out and to understand the functional corridors and what measures can be taken to conserve these corridors. Moreover, her long-term aim is to bring change in the view of aspect towards wildlife study & conservation through scientific research, interdisciplinary studies, and by understanding and documenting local and tribal people’s perception and their knowledge towards wildlife.
During her free time, she loves to travel, explore new places, and wander around the streets clicking some storytelling pictures while interacting with the locals, trying out different cuisines and local dishes, swimming, reading, and walking.
Wildlife Conservation Society-India, supported by Titli Trust, has supported the Uttarakhand Forest Department (UKFD) in assessing and addressing leopard and human conflict in the time period 2013-2019. Sanjay Sondhi from Titli Trust has been our main partner in this effort. In the initial phase of the project, 2013-2015, we assessed the leopard conflict in Uttarakhand through desk research and a social survey of stakeholders impacted by the conflict-local community, forest department and others. Based on consultations with the UKFD, from 2017-2019, we implemented our recommendation in the form of two pilots in Tehri and Pauri. The pilots involved exposure visits, equipping and capacity building rapid response teams of the UKFD by conducting awareness and sensitisation programs amongst forest department, local community, children, media and police. The primary project objective of reducing human-leopard conflict by becoming proactive instead of reactive yielded positive results in Tehri, with a significant reduction in HWC. The key lesson learnt was that a collaborative effort by all stakeholders, focused on problem resolution, backed by buy-in from all levels of the forest department, can result in a reduced HWC on the ground. We are now trying to work on a key challenge - to institutionalize these mechanisms across the state.