Sula – Sanctuary Support To ‘Mud On Boots’ Conservationist Ashwin Gurusrikar
With support from Sula Vineyards Pvt. Ltd., the Sanctuary Nature Foundation is pleased to announce a new Project Leader under Sanctuary’s flagship Mud on Boots Project, a programme designed to empower grassroots conservationists.
Photo: Vanodaya Wildlife Trust
Project Leader Ashwin Gurusrikar is Sanctuary’s 12th Project Leader under this initiative and the first from Karnataka. He leads the Vanodaya Wildlife Trust, a voluntary organisation that is active in and around Karnataka’s largest Protected Area, the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary comprises 1,027 sq. km. of prime tiger habitat and is home to a plethora of endangered wildlife ranging from Asian elephants to honey badgers. This rich wilderness is also crucial to the integrity of the Cauvery river that flows through the sanctuary and quenches both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. According to a study published by the Nature Conservation Foundation, the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining Malai-Mahadeshwara Hills Wildlife Sanctuary together host more tigers than some notified tiger reserves in the country, and, with the right management, have the potential to host much denser populations. Given this camera-trap evidence of tiger presence, conservationists have been lobbying to have the sanctuaries notified as tiger reserves. However, NCF states that "But merely providing legal cover is not enough; actual changes on ground and improved capacity to conserve wildlife are very much needed". Ashwin Gurusrikar's work in the area is one effort towards this end.
Ashwin, along with his team of able volunteers, focuses on community conservation through intensive awareness workshops, multi-level stakeholder engagements, wildlife research, conservation training for youths and initiatives to mitigate Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) in the region. Under his leadership, Vanodaya’s volunteers have also been assisting the Forest Department with waterhole mapping, anti-snare drives, and patrolling during major festivals when poaching activities peak. Ashwin is well-respected for his commitment to the conservation of this landscape and has been working in the field for the past 11 years. Thus far, Vanodaya Wildlife Trust has been self-funded, now with support from Sanctuary and Sula, they will be able to expand their work exponentially. In December 2017, Sula Wines launched Kādu, a brand of premium wines made entirely in Karnataka and sold exclusively in the state. Sula has generously committed a contribution to the Mud on Boots Project from each bottle of Kādu wine sold, and presented a cheque of five lakh rupees to Sanctuary at the launch of the product in December 2017.
As a Project Leader, Ashwin will receive funds to the tune of rupees three lakhs, disbursed over a two-year period, along with other strategic assistance from the Sanctuary team. The Mud on Boots Project enables the work of those conservationists in the field whose contributions tend to be overlooked by larger donor agencies and government bodies because of a lack of educational qualifications, language skills or affiliations. It is a flexible programme intended to bolster the work of earth heroes and expand their impact. “The idea behind the project is to give a boost to existing conservation efforts, without burdening fieldworkers with excessive paperwork or rigid guidelines. By giving each Project Leader a little financial support, connecting them with relevant experts, communicating the urgency of their work and filling in any gaps that we can, Sanctuary is focussing on magnifying the voice and work of India’s ground-level conservationists,” said Cara Tejpal who heads the Mud on Boots Project for Sanctuary.
To support the Mud on Boots Project and further enable the work of unconventional conservation heroes, please write to