Home Magazines Cover Story Change Makers – The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards 2012

Change Makers – The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards 2012

Change Makers – The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards 2012

The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards 2012, sponsored by DSP Blackrock and Deutsche Bank.

In the doom and gloom scenario of India’s wildlife conservation and climate change canvas, some human beings stand out, not merely because their values are shining beacons in a world tarnished by false ambition, but also for their ability to overcome the odds to work for a better and safer world in tune with nature’s imperatives. Here is an inspirational shortlist of some individuals from among a veritable legion, who are making a difference.

Lifetime Service Award

Belinda Wright

Wildlife guardian, visionary conservationist, fearless crusader

Belinda Wright has dedicated her life to wildlife conservation, and has pioneered investigations into the illegal wildlife trade in India, Nepal, Bhutan and China. She has helped to expose the trade in shahtoosh and its connection with the tiger bone trade, by tracking tiger skins from India  to the Tibetan plateau.

Courtesy: WPSI/EIA

Born in Kolkata, this warm-hearted conservationist is the Founder and Executive Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). A dyed-in-the-wool wildlifer, she is a renowned tiger conservationist and wildlife campaigner, who has pioneered investigations into the illegal wildlife trade in India, Nepal, Bhutan and China. She has also organised hundreds of wildlife enforcement and anti-poaching workshops and skill shares for a range of professionals including Forest, Police and Customs officials. She helped discover and expose the trade in shahtoosh and its connection with the tiger bone trade, tracked tiger skins from India to the Tibetan plateau, and has worked to stop the slaughter of sea turtles off the coast of Odisha and the poaching and electrocution of wild elephants.

Daughter of the indomitable Anne Wright (Sanctuary Vol. XXXII, No. 4), a wildlife activist whose work spans half a century from the 1960s, she virtually grew up in the Kanha National Park, where her father, the late Bob Wright, and Anne set up a home to be with and protect the wild animals the family so loved.

Passion for the tiger and the natural world runs deep in her veins. A prolific writer, she has been a wildlife photographer and documentary filmmaker for National Geographic for nearly two decades, having worked on more than a dozen wildlife films. The 1984 documentary, ‘Land of the Tiger’, produced by Stanley Breeden and her, won two Emmy Awards and 14 other major international awards. She founded WPSI in 1994 to draw attention to the precipitous decline in India’s wildlife. Working behind the scenes, often in disguise and posing as a buyer or trader, she has frequently placed her life at risk. Today WPSI is a vital source of intelligence and information on the national and global illegal wildlife trade with a wildlife crime database with details of nearly 22,000 cases. It is arguably one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

Her dedication and drive has seen her appointed, down the years, to several State Wildlife Advisory Boards and the National Board for Wildlife from 2007 to 2010. She is currently an Honorary Wildlife Warden of NCT Delhi, a member of the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, an Honorary Trustee of the International Crane Foundation, a Patron of the Indian Chapter of The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA), and an Ashoka Senior Fellow. And to cap it all she has been decorated with the OBE by the Queen of England “for the protection of wildlife and endangered species in India.”

By any measure, this is an extraordinary woman of exceptional talent, whose life has been devoted to the protection of wild nature.

For this, we honour her.

Wildlife Service Award

N. Badusha

Social activist, wildlife defender, conservationist, campaigner

N. Badusha is a farmer turned environmental activist, who has effectively combined policy and grassroots activism to protect Wynad, the livelihoods of its locals, and its connecting ecosystems.

Photograph by P.M. Muthanna.

A simple man who lives to protect forests, he has been fighting the illegal sandalwood trade, forest encroachments in Wynad, commercial plantations on forest lands and the trapping of wild elephants. Recently, Badusha successfully steered the first-ever voluntary relocation of 50 families from the Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary, which has led to several hundred families seeking voluntary relocation to improve their own conditions of life, while releasing vital lands for wildlife.

The battle for India’s biodiversity is primarily fought by two kinds of people – the soldier, who fights daily battles through his activism, writing, protests, demonstrations and petitions; and the planner, an individual who works towards long term policy and legal framework through awareness and academic understanding of environmental degradation. Once in a blue moon, we are fortunate to have a hybrid of both men, a leader, who is able to balance the contradictions between political parties, tribal leaders, environmentalists, the media, intellectuals, officials and locals. N. Badusha is one such man.

A farmer, he turned to political and environmental activism in the 1970s, and later focused on defending wild habitats, a cause to which his entire life has been devoted. His efforts have helped secure the Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary (which includes the Muthunga and Tholphatti sanctuaries) from forest fires, illegal timber felling and mining. The ripple effect of his work has ended up benefitting even the neighbouring Protected Areas of Bandipur, Nagarahole, Mudumalai and Brahmagiri.

This down-to-earth, pragmatic man inspires respect in everything he has achieved over the years, from fighting wars for fair relocation policies, to shutting down mining and tree-felling operations, to tackling issues like forest fires and the loss of local ecology due to exotic species invasion. As lynchpin of the Wynad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samithi, he has set high personal standards, to benefit both people and parks.

For this, we honour him.

Wildlife Service Award

Srinivasa Reddy

Forest officer, dedicated wildlifer, social reformer

Srinivasa Reddy, the current Field Director of the Pench Tiger Reserve, has added greatly to the security of key wildlife areas where he has served, including Chandrapur, Nandurbar, Ahmednagar and Melghat.

A born leader and driver of change, Srinivasa Reddy has dedicated his life to the pursuit of a wildlife conservation ethic that guarantees a good quality of human life without sacrificing our wilds. Known for his passion for and knowledge of the management and policy of conservation, many may find it hard to believe that Reddy started off as an M.Tech. in Computer Science and Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi. Unable to deny the call to action that our degraded forests were crying out for, he chose to spend an additional three years to train for the Indian Forest Service at the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy from 1994 to 1997.

He then put this training to good use, earning the respect and admiration of colleagues and conservationists in the process. He has served in various capacities to protect the wildlife around Chandrapur, Nandurbar, Ahmednagar and Melghat. He has also become one of the architects of the renewed drive to consolidate the Nagzira-Navegon landscape and is currently the Field Director of the Pench Tiger Reserve. In every capacity, his quiet perseverance and dignity has worked miracles for wildlife.

Aware that relocation of villages is a sensitive issue, he worked with local communities, and by making them the architects of the move, he managed to successfully oversee the relocation of Amona, Nagartas and Barukheda villages from Wan Sanctuary in the Melghat Tiger Reserve, repeating this success in Navegaon National Park, where villagers had been demanding to be relocated for three decades. Reddy’s wildlife knowledge and experience is matched by his sensitivity to people, a quality that is critical to the wildlife conservation movement of tomorrow.

For this, we honour him.

Wildlife Service Award

P. Dhanesh Kumar

Courageous forest officer, environment activist, visionary

P. Dhanesh Kumar epitomises every ideal that our country’s forest protectors stand for – bravery, commitment, and a tireless respect for the wildernesses he serves. He is one of those who represent a fight against the assault on Kerala’s forests. Undeterred by threats to life and limb, he has earned the title of the green warrior he is so deservingly recognised as today.
Courtesy: Dhanesh Kumar.

P. Dhanesh Kumar has undertaken Herculean tasks to protect India’s wildernesses. In the face of threats to himself and his family, he fought powerful forces that were systematically destroying Kerala’s fragile forests, where he has served as a Forest Range Officer and then Divisional Forest Officer for over a decade. In the process, he has had to confront ruthless poachers, ganja dealers and sandalwood smugglers, who have learned to take advantage of a system that discounts the service of forest protection to national development. In 2007, he received the award for the ‘Best Wildlife Management Trainee on the Indian Subcontinent’ from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and, earlier this year, this braveheart won the ‘Good Service Entry’ award from the Kerala Forest Department for protecting the forests of the Nelliampathy Hills.

His daring and nerve have, however, come at a cost. He has not merely been victimised by powerful forces linked with dubious politicians and mafias, but has been physically assaulted as well. Nothing, however, has been able to deter his ever-enduring spirit.

Having launched ‘Operation Clean Nelliampathy’, this exemplary defender of the wilds has used the court to reclaim over 6,000 acres of forest land that had been illegally taken over. This is a man for tomorrow – an Indian who is protecting the future of our children.

For this, we honour him.

Wildlife Service Award

Jadav Payeng

Forest Man of Assam

Jadav Payeng is best known as the ‘Forest Man of Assam’. A simple cowherd, he went about raising a forest from the ground up by working with nature and by unifying means and ends to create a fulfilled life for himself on a sand island in Assam’s Brahmaputra river.
Photograph by Shailendra Yashwant.

The stuff of Northeastern legend, Jadav Payeng’s story begins at the young age of sixteen, when he took over his family’s livestock, bought more, and started a small herd. His father told him that the dry Brahmaputra sandbar they lived on would turn fertile with the dung of their cattle. He was right. Without help from anything but nature, this forward-thinking man earned a living by ferrying milk for sale by boat from his nondescript sandbar.

Whenever he had a bit of surplus money, he would buy bamboo and other local sapling species and plant them lovingly on his sandbar. Something told him that plants alone would not be able to survive so, incredibly, he took to carrying ants from the mainland to his relatively tiny island. During one particularly vicious flood, more than a 100 snakes washed down by the waters died on his island. Reduced to tears, the heartbroken Payeng decided he would turn his island into a haven where all creatures could find sustenance. The end result of his endeavours is Mulai Kathoni, or Mulai’s Forest, where, apart from reptiles, all manners of insects, birds and mammals, including rhinos and tigers, have found safe haven. The man now sleeps just three hours a day, paddles his way to Ounachapori by three a.m., walks or cycles five kilometres to his livestock in the middle of the forest, cleaning, feeding and milking the animals, tending trees and caring for his land.

Today, some suggest that Mulai is obsessed! Not satisfied with greening just his own tiny ark, he exhorts villagers to do the same on part of their own lands.

The ‘Forest Man of Assam’ refuses to take much credit for all this. “It’s just the power of nature that has done this,” he says. When Sanctuary asked what motivates him after all these years, he turned philosophical, “A cup of tea in the winter, when the jhao grass dance to the clap of the kohua flowers, with wagtails running around, with the sound of the Brahmaputra waters lapping at my feet and my buffaloes lazing in the morning sun. Who can give me such riches other than nature?”

Jadav Payeng is a hero and he does not even know it.

For this, we honour him.

Wildlife Service Award

Richard D’Souza

Wildlifer, principled forest officer, conservationist

The blood that runs through the veins of Richard D’Souza is as green as the forests he protects. After many years spent in defence of the marine and forest ecosystems of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, he is now stationed in Goa where he is fast being recognised as a protector of tigers and the wilderness.
Photograph by Paresh Porob.

Richard D’Souza is a wildlife defender, but he will be remembered by the people of Goa as the man who protected their water sources forever. A rare individual whose blood seems to flow even greener than Goa’s tiger forests, which he zealously protects, his passion for all things natural dates back to the 60s, when as a student he first encountered a tiger in Billy Arjan Singh’s Dudhwa Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh. He decided then and there that he would join the Indian Forest Service, a dream that came true in 1980 with a posting to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Since that day, he has been steadfastly walking the narrow, unbeaten wildlife conservation trail, which has had its own share of problems including two near-death experiences.

As the Chief Wildlife Warden of the A&N Islands, he quickly got Cuthbert Bay declared as a sanctuary for the olive Ridley turtle, Rani Jhansi Marine National Park for the endangered dugong and Galathea Bay in Great Nicobar for the highly endangered giant leatherback turtle. Shielding these amazing creatures has not only guaranteed their future, but that of the millions of other lifeforms, including ourselves, all subtly intertwined in that fine web we call nature.

He has also authored management plans for many other regions in the Andamans in the 16 long years he spent there. This lifetime experience stood him in good stead in Goa, where he works as the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests for a government that has given almost 20 per cent of the total land area of the state over to sanctuary or national park status. He has been protecting the wildlife of India all his life, particularly helping the tigers of Goa.

For this, we honour him.

Young Naturalist Awards

Cara Tejpal

Wildlife champion, writer, animal rights activist

A prolific writer, Cara Tejpal has been published widely in India, and has a dedicated following in cyberspace as well. This young woman has doggedly followed her dream, and lives it every day by defending the wild species she loves.
Courtesy: Cara Tejpal.

Cara Tejpal, in her early 20s has already gained a reputation for hardcore wildlife conservation work (see page 34). A combination of intelligence and compassion, her sedate attitude towards conservation belies her age. She currently works with the Gerry Martin Project that seeks to protect and educate the masses on reptiles and specifically on how to reduce the frightening incidence of snakebites in India.

A prolific writer, Cara has covered a number of conservation issues in India and has a veritable following in cyberspace as well.

She has empathised with animals from the time she was a child and has picked up an impressive list of work experience ranging from volunteering for animal shelters, working as a zoo keeper with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, researching and editing for Tehelka and interning with Panthera, Mountain Cleaners, Aranyak and the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team (ANET), to being a ‘Minister’s Fellow’ with Jairam Ramesh at the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Cara is a young lady whose heart beats for nature. In her purpose lie the hopes of all those who have been defending India’s wildlife for decades past.

For this, we honour her.

Young Naturalist Awards

Roheet Karoo

Tiger protector, crusader, wilderness activist

Young and deeply involved with wildlife protection, Roheet Karoo has accumulated an impressive amount of experience and promises to be a key player in the fortification of the tiger’s home in the Tadoba landscape, by working closely with local communities, policy makers and field experts.
Photograph by Ratan Raut.

Roheet Karoo is still haunted by the gruesome image of the dead tiger he saw outside the Government Veterinarian Hospital in Umred, near Tadoba in Maharashtra when he was a young student in class seven. At that very moment, he decided that his life would be spent in defending this magnificent cat. His connections with nature were honed during school camps, wildlife trips and conservation talks that he would purposefully attend. By 2004, young Roheet had already begun to receive calls to rescue snakes and other wild animals that ran afoul of humans.

Subsequent interactions with mentors, including Suhas Bokade, Pravin Nagdeote and Nitin Desai (a Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award winner), provided him the depth and horizons he needed to throw himself into fulltime wildlife conservation. The surveys and studies he has undertaken resulted in the declaration of the Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, which has given the Tadoba Tiger Reserve a much needed boost. A sober young man, driven by a deeper purpose, he has found support and approval from such prominent wildlife policy makers as Principal Secretary, Forests, Maharashtra, Praveen Pardeshi, and Minister of State for Maharashtra, Rajendra Mulak. Roheet has only one dream – of protecting tigers and their habitats. He is able to identify over 20 individual tigers in the Tadoba landscape. His drive, purpose, single-minded devotion will certainly give the tigers of Tadoba an extra edge on life.

For this, we honour him.

Young Naturalist Awards

Rohan Chakravarty

Wildlife-lover, talented cartoonist, brilliant illustrator

A quiet conservationist with an artist’s touch, Rohan Chakravarty uses pen and ink to communicate the most basic conservation messages in a pithy, witty and effective manner imaginable… through cartoons and illustrations.
Photograph by Anamika Sudhir.

Rohan Chakravarty serves as a shining example of a young man who has proven that it is possible to fight for the environment without sacrificing other passions and goals that can and do drive young people. A quiet conservationist with an artist’s skill and touch, he uses illustrations and cartoons to fashion pithy messages that often do a better job of communicating nature-values and imperatives than either words or photographs. His thought-canvas includes wildlife, climate change, environmental degradation, and human sustainability.

Like so many of our finest wildlifers, young Rohan’s wildlife-adventure journey began with just one sighting of a tigress, which he saw luxuriating in a Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary pool.

As a student, Rohan was part of Sanctuary Asia’s Kids for Tigers programme in Nagpur, where he lived with his parents and his love for wildlife found expression through his art, which manifested itself best through cartoons that he brought to life with skilled hands and a keen eye. His work has been published in several magazines and journals across India. Mature beyond his years, Rohan has the ability to bring a smile to your face and introspection to your deepest thoughts. He was awarded the first prize by the United Nations Development Programme and the French government for his illustrations which highlight the impact of climate change on the Sundarbans. Rohan uses humour to push for hardcore conservation and environmental protection. His is a mind that will surely be used by India and the world to move away from the dangerous path of confrontation with nature.

For this, we honour him.

Green Teacher Award

Chandrakant G. Wakankar

Educationist, mentor, naturalist, author, conservationist

Chandrakant G. Wakankar, a Contributory Faculty member with the University of Pune, has been responsible for the creation of thousands of nature clubs across India and has mentored scores of naturalists who are today at the apex of their professions.
Courtesy: Chandrakant G. Wakankar.

A modest man who always puts his wards ahead of himself, Chandrakant Wakankar’s love affair with nature spans four decades of sowing seeds of appreciation for nature and knowledge in the minds of thousands of impressionable young men and women in India and across the world. Here is a man who truly walks the talk, living by the environmental values and principles he expounds for the benefit of his students. His expertise lies in the arenas of restoration ecology and wildlife management, biodiversity conservation and environmental ethics. Through his hugely-productive life, he has worked with WWF-India, the Bombay Natural History Society and Econet in Pune, where his passion for history and hiking merged with his commitment to protect India’s wildlife.

Currently, a Contributory Faculty member with the University of Pune, he guides M.Sc. students, on whom he is undoubtedly leaving an indelible conservation stamp. Many of today’s most popular field-training programmes, workshops, and camps, which are being implemented across India, have their roots in the early structure that Professor Wakankar put together for students of all ages, ranging from primary school to university. In his view, the one achievement he is most proud of is the creation of over 2,000 nature clubs across India. These nature clubs have given birth to some of our finest conservationists whose foundations are going to be the foundation of a stronger, ecologically-stable India.

He is a Green Teacher who lives so that our children and see better tomorrows.

For this, we honour him.

Wind Under the Wings Award

Arti Kulkarni (IBN Lokmat)

IBN Lokmat for enabling and encouraging Arti Kulkarni, Deputy Feature Editor, to combine and hone her talents as a journalist, filmmaker and conservationist.

An award-winning journalist, Arti Kulkarni has been lauded as the voice of conservation in the Marathi media. Encouraged by IBN Lokmat, where she works as Deputy Feature Editor, this bold woman defends the wild species she loves through her hard-hitting exposes and campaigns on the problems facing wildlife reserves in Maharashtra.
Courtesy: Arti Kulkarni.

Arti Kulkarni’s passion for wildlife and environmental issues has always burned bright. For over a decade, she has worked as a filmmaker and writer to spread awareness on these concerns. Her film, ‘Gaaj… Call of the Ocean’ was recognised both nationally and internationally, while her reports  on illegal mining in Tadoba and the leopard  crisis in Maharashtra revolutionised Marathi journalism by bringing environmental issues to the fore. Arti’s raw creativity and passion resonated within IBN Lokmat, where she has worked for the last five years as Deputy Feature Editor. Her campaign to protect the buffer zone of the Tadoba Tiger Reserve against illegal mining won her the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award and led to the Central Government cancelling the leases that would have seriously impacted tigers. Other campaigns include exposés on thermal plants and chemical units that were polluting the Konkan region and the faulty siting of windmills much too close to the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary. Her meticulously researched reports helped highlight the very real threat to flamingoes from the proposed Sewri Nhava Sheva Sea Link and the value of the mudflats of Thane Creek to Mumbai. Currently working on campaigns to protect the Western Ghats from iron ore mining, she has successfully raised awareness of the value of, and the threat to, the newly-declared Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, nearby forests in Maharashtra and the tiger forests of Goa. She has also started ‘Shekru – a journey for conservation stories’, a platform to create awareness about Maharashtra’s wildlife.

Arti Kulkarni has successfully earned a following. Lakhs of people have been educated and involved in the issues she has raised through responsible environmental reporting; to the extent that other television news channels have begun to emulate her example.

For this, we honour her and IBN Lokmat.

Special Wind Under the Wings Award

Deepak Atal (Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd.)

Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd. and its innovative Managing Director, Deepak Atal for their inspiring decision to convert a plantation in Assam into the organic Hathikuli Tea Estate.

The worrisome losses in the initial stages of turning Hathikuli organic are fast being put to rest. Such corporate initiatives can make a world of difference to the protection of the grasslands that form the backbone of the Kaziranga landscape.
Photograph by Rajesh Sanap.

A special Wind Under the Wings Award goes out to a most unusual recipient... Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd. (APPL), a Tata Group Company, which manages the heritage Hathikuli Tea Estate, led by Managing Director, Deepak Atal. The company, supported by its management and shareholders, took the farsighted internal decision to turn its plantation, located in the Golghat district in Assam, into an organic estate; a step that took courage, and financial staying power since initial losses, mainly on account of lower yields and crop losses to pests (until secondary predators, see images below, were able to bring pests under control naturally), were high. This project exemplified the company’s ethos of Corporate Passion beyond the call of Corporate Financial Governance.

Today, however, the health of their tea bushes has dramatically improved: pepper yields are rising and soil biodiversity has shown a dramatic jump. Significantly, the health of their own large workforce (they own 20 per cent of the shares of Hathikuli), has improved. The estate has its own compost production unit with an annual production of 1,100 MT/year. Hathikuli has won the grudging admiration of its competitors too, many of whom have begun emulating their example, albeit tentatively.

The real beneficiaries, of course, have been the rhinos, elephants, wild buffaloes, tigers and the entire gamut of bird and aquatic life of Kaziranga. This is because this low-lying Brahmaputra wilderness has now been spared the assault of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which are anathema to the health of biodiversity.

For this, we honour Deepak Atal and Amalgmated Plantations Private Ltd.

Best Tiger State Award 2012

Today, Maharashtra has blossomed into a promising leader in tiger protection, with the support of its Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, seen here with Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam and some talented wildlife photographers.
Photograph by Shirish Thakur.

In recent years, as all of us are acutely aware, the tiger slide has shaken us all. And a very tentative fight back has begun. To take stock of the tiger situation in India, Sanctuary Asia undertook an internal review of key Tiger States information from our own database and from official government sites. We evaluated the performance of over the past year on a grid using seven key parameters: 1. The declaration of core and buffer zones. 2. The establishment of a Tiger Protection Force 3. Whether forest guard posts and front line vacancies had been filled. 4. Whether new tiger habitats had been notified as sanctuaries 5. Whether wildlife corridor protection had begun. 6. The scale and effectiveness of voluntary relocation of villages. And 7. The participation of local communities in managing tiger tourism, with revenue sharing. Based on the above, Sanctuary Asia is delighted to announce that Maharashtra, under the visionary leadership of its Chief Minister, Shri Prithviraj Chavan, and ably supported by dynamic Forest Minister, Dr. Patangrao Kadam, has been judged to be India’s Best Tiger State for 2012.  This is in recognition of the dramatic improvement in tiger protection in Maharashtra. Tiger numbers have risen from just under 170 to around 200. As many as 1,200 vacant forest guard and frontline posts have been filled. A Tiger Protection Force has been established with two battalions of 180 persons. Tiger corridors have been strengthened. 500 sq. km of inviolate forests have been declared as sanctuaries. Above all, in the process, the relationship between people and parks has significantly improved because of policies that recognise the contribution of local communities to the vital task of tiger protection.

For this, we honour the State of Maharashtra, under the leadership of its visionary Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, with the Best Tiger State Award, 2012.

by Sanctuary Asia, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXXII No. 6, December 2012


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Bittu Sahgal

January 27, 2014, 04:51 AM
 History will judge the men and women awarded this recognition as nation-builders. Those who destroy tomorrow's ecosystems for today's profit, will be recognised as the dark forces that sought to destabilise the planet for personal power or greed. - See more at: http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/magazines/cover-story/9118-change-makers-the-sanctuary-wildlife-awards-2012.html#sthash.JHfjJIsb.dpuf