Nitin Padmakar Desai
Month Year: December 2006
Wildlife Service Awards
One of India’s least known, but most effective field-based conservationists, Nitin Desai is Director, Central India with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). His association with wildlife issues began in 1987 as a volunteer for WWF’s nature camps. Disturbed by the impact of poaching and the wildlife trade between 1998 and 1999, he worked on a collaborative data gathering project to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade.
He has crafted a network of informers that helped in the detection of a series of poaching and wildlife trade cases. Desai is unfazed by personal risk and has taken on the operatives of some of the world’s most ruthless poachers and wildlife traders. His arena includes the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh and his investigations lead him to the remotest areas. He often traverses over 30,000 km. each year on assignments that involve specific risk to his life.
A hands-on conservationist, he was vital to the investigations that led to the exposure of the Tibet and China wildlife scandal involving the use of tiger, leopard and otter skins by aspirational Tibetans. He also holds wildlife enforcement training workshops for forest and police personnel. Desai epitomises the “hidden hero” description and was initially reluctant to step into this spotlight, but was convinced when he understood that India needed to see evidence of the normally hidden fight against the dark forces. He is a symbol of hope for the wildlife of India in a sea of despair.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVI No. 6, December 2006.