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Mr. Dependable in the service of wildlife conservation
| July 26, 2018
MEET OUR STAFF:
One morning in the dry deciduous forests of Bandipur, WCS India Program Research Assistant Kiran Yadav and his colleague left the camp to check the installed camera-traps, and collect data from these. It was around 9 a.m. when they finished retrieving data from two camera points. (Cameras are set up in various parts of the jungle to sense and click images of animals that pass by.) The day turned out to be a bumper one in terms of sightings.
The two of them sighted a pack of dhole with five individuals, one leopard, two tigers and almost all the herbivores including four-horned antelope. “That was the highest number of sightings I have ever had in a single day, in my entire career. I still remember, it was 3rd January, 2009,” says Kiran, like a true wildlife enthusiast.
Kiran Yadav (right) participating in the line-transect survey © Narendra Patil
Kiran Yadav, a nature enthusiast since a young age, lives in Bengaluru city, who did his Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Bangalore University. After completing his Masters, he joined Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) where he worked as Research Assistant for almost two years. It was then that he heard about WCS India and joined as a volunteer in the year 2006.
He first participated in occupancy surveys in Sirsi for around four months. The occupancy survey is conducted to assess the distribution of herbivores and carnivores based on direct and indirect evidences. Direct evidence is direct sighting of the animal and indirect evidence includes identifying animal scat, tracks, etc.
In June 2007 WCS India Program offered him a position to work as a Research Assistant. He grabbed it. “I always wanted to work for NGOs doing good work in my field of interest, money was not the priority,” says Kiran.
After doing occupancy and line transect surveys for a year, Kiran was then made the site in-charge for camera-trap surveys from 2007 to 2010. Till 2013, Kiran used to spend most of his time in forests. He has visited all the field sites in Karnataka, as well as Wayanad and Pench.
“Earlier, I had a rough idea about wildlife and forest, but after joining WCS India Program I learnt to identify animals, birds and their calls, animal signs and their pellets (some mammal species leave signs - scats and tracks sufficiently distinctive to provide positive identification) besides many other techniques, including interacting with people,” Kiran says. All this was possible because of my mentors, Srinivasan Vaidyanathan and Dr. Samba Kumar, he adds.
Kiran Yadav (right) setting up a camera-trap © WCS India archives
Today, Kiran carries out and oversees a wide range of research-related activities, including mapping and geographical information systems (GIS) work, overseeing and coordinating the critical processing and validation of field data at the WCS-India Bangalore office, coordinating with field teams, and managing interns and volunteers for the research program.
For example, ExtractCompare is a software program he uses that is designed to extract stripe (tigers) and rosette (leopards) patterns, and identify individual after comparing these patterns with those in a database. It uses still photos taken by camera traps and is applicable to any species with natural markings.
“ExtractCompare was started in WCS India Program in the year 2009 by Narendra Patil. I used to manually do grouping (process of grouping tigers in a 5 km range) using hard copies of the photos as there were no digital photos available. After 2013 the photos were digital. Anyway, the most exciting work in office is to look at wildlife pictures,” feels Kiran.
“In case of a tiger death by any means, or any pictures clicked by tourists and accessed by our team, we upload it into the ExtractCompare software and compare it with the images in our database. If the available image is very clear the individual will be identified within no time. But if the image is of poor quality then it calls for some patience,” he explains.
Associate Director with WCS India, Dr. Devcharan Jathanna says, “Kiran is one of our most dependable staff members and a vital pillar of the field research team. Having been with the WCS India Program since 2007, Kiran has developed a familiarity with the long-term data sets that is invaluable to our research activities. Although Kiran's responsibilities keep him largely in the office these days, he is an experienced field hand, and has a remarkable geographic memory of all our field sites.”
From sighting wildlife in the forest to mixing and matching figures on the computer and coordinating activities may seem like a big difference. But to Kiran, looking at the wildlife images on screen is exciting in itself. Any effort towards wildlife conservation is reward enough, he assures.
Written by Manish Machaiah