The Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT)
April 2010: Hemendra Kothari, better known as one of India’s most successful and principled bankers, founded the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) in 2002.
When asked why, Kothari, who is currently Chairman of DSP-Blackrock Investment Managers and who recently retired as Chairman of DSP Merrill Lynch Ltd., said, “Because I have loved wildlife for decades, and have spent my most enjoyable moments in one wildlife reserve or other across the world. Given the problems being faced by wildlife, I felt it was time to pay back and today one of my very important priorities is to save wildlife and return our damaged forests back to health.”
Commenting on his WCT mission, “We initially wish to tackle one crucial aspect of wildlife conservation and that is protection. We will focus our resources on helping state governments and park managements to secure the source populations of large carnivores in our country’s most potential wildlife parks.”
WCT has begun to work with State Forest Departments and Park Managers to supplement and complement resources. It looks to enhance the Rapid Response Capability of the field staff to handle crises, such as poaching, man-animal conflicts, fire, or even medical emergencies such as timely snake bite treatment for staff. For instance, when Cyclone Aila hit the Sundarbans, WCT not only made a contribution of 25 lakh rupees but also provided emergency resources including food, water, bleach, medicines, tarpaulin sheets and other relief materials to thousands of stranded people within 48 hours.
“Though the government is placing much more money in the hands of park managers, there are still many small but vital shortfalls that seriously hamper the ability of protection teams to reach the scene of crisis fast. If a tiger strays into a village in the Sundarbans, for instance, a rescue team arriving even 30 minutes earlier could mean all the difference between life and death for a tiger… or a human being,” suggests Kothari. In his view: “The old thought that environment conservation is only for a small group of activists no longer holds true. With climate change threats becoming more and more apparent each day, we must accept that economic prosperity is contingent upon environment security and this in turn is closely linked to the intelligent deployment of resources. WCT and like-minded organisations should work with the new government at the centre to prioritise the protection of India’s water and natural resources, which is not possible to do without protecting our wildlife.”
“There are many Indian corporate heads who genuinely love wildlife and forests. WCT will encourage them to do even more by highlighting the self-interest inherent in protecting ecosystems, without which climate change could seriously harm our water, food and economic security,” he adds. B. Sridhar of Bengal Tiger Line agrees: “WCT is helping people from across the spectrum to work together to protect the tiger. Our company agreed to work with Sanctuary to save our national animal because, like Hemendrabhai, we too felt wef owed it a debt of gratitude. Not only has it given us our corporate identity, but protecting the tiger and its forest is in our view intrinsic to India’s ecological and therefore, our economic security. Such public-private partnerships are the way of the future.”
To help share best practices WCT has enabled Sanctuary and other like-minded organisations working for wildlife and forest conservation to exchange views and knowledge through a series of regional Bengal Tiger Consultations which have been organised by Sanctuary over the past six months in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai (see Sanctuary Vol. XXVIII No. 4, August 2008, No. 6, December 2008 and Vol. XXIX No. 2, April 2009). A fifth Bengal Tiger Consultation is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on July 25-26, immediately following a major call to arms for the tiger, which will take the shape and form of a public rally being held in New Delhi on July 24, 2009.
These consultations have successfully brought together wildlife experts, forest officials, scientists, politicians, businessmen and journalists and the process will continue.
A WCT snapshot
Non-governmental, public charitable trust registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950 since March 2002. Dedicated and committed to preserve, protect and conserve wildlife including creating awareness of wildlife conservation to help restore natural harmony between humans and environment; financing research projects in this field; providing support packages to Protected Areas to strengthen wildlife conservation; imparting skills, development training, and improving living conditions of the frontline staff in these areas.
Geographical Area of Focus: Tadoba-Andhari Reserve in Chandrapur, the Melghat Tiger Reserve in Nagpur where it has been working with the Satpuda Foundation, Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra), the newly-consolidated Nagarhole-Bandipur Tiger Reserves in Karnataka, the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve in Assam, Sundarbans in West Bengal, Corbett in Uttarakhand and the Gir National Park in Gujarat.
What about other NGOs already working in the area?
WCT has no intention of working directly on the ground and will instead rely on (and support) credible NGOs who are already working with the field staff and managements of various parks. Some of this assistance has already started to flow to such groups and individuals. More will be allocated in the months and years to come.
Where will WCT’s money go?
To improve the conditions of work and patrolling, intelligence gathering and protection capability of field staff in wildlife reserves. Vehicles and boats, communications equipment and solar collectors, medical kits, trekking gear, metal detectors, gas cylinders, water filters are among the resources being provided. Additionally, on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding that each State Government signs with WCT, training programmes (field craft, physical fitness, wildlife forensics, legal) led by the country’s best respected experts will help to motivate field staff and enhance their patrolling and investigation capabilities. Resources will also be invested in offering vocational training to unemployed youth living in the periphery so that they are able to find gainful employment away from the forest, thus reducing their (and their family’s) dependence on the forest.
For more information write to:
Dr. Anish Andheria, Wildlife Conservation Trust
11th Floor, Mafatlal Center, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021.
Tel: (022) 492 55555