Alumnus, Cranes and Wetlands
Illegal hunting, over the past decade, has caused local extinctions of several waterfowl species and complete loss of numerous heronries in southern India. However, there have been no attempts to understand the dynamics of illegal hunting in these unprotected, yet biodiversity rich wetlands. My broad research interests are in understanding the impacts and dynamics of illegal hunting and wildlife trade; particularly outside formally protected areas. I am also interested in effectively utilizing such knowledge towards biodiversity conservation. Besides this, policy development through adaptive and effective management regimes that reconciles biodiversity conservation with socio-economic needs, also interests me.
For my master’s dissertation, I investigated the impacts of hunting on the community structure of wetland avifauna in a human dominated agrarian landscape of southern India. Illegal hunting, being among the significant causes for extinction of various taxa, needs to be controlled on a priority basis. I believe in multidisciplinary approaches involving ecology, economy, sociology, and a wide range of other areas in dealing with issues such as illegal hunting and wildlife trade; and this is what got me interested in joining the Cranes and Wetlands Programme.
- Journal Article2017Hunting or habitat? Drivers of waterbird abundance and community structure in agricultural wetlands of southern IndiaAmbio, 46(5): 613-620. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-017-0907-9
The relative impacts of hunting and habitat on waterbird community were studied in agricultural wetlands of southern India. We surveyed wetlands to document waterbird community, and interviewed hunters to document hunting intensity, targeted species, and the motivations for hunting. Our results show that hunting leads to drastic declines in waterbird diversity and numbers, and skew the community towards smaller species. Hunting intensity, water spread, and vegetation cover were the three most important determinants of waterbird abundance and community structure. Species richness, density of piscivorous species, and medium-sized species (31–65 cm) were most affected by hunting. Out of 53 species recorded, 47 were hunted, with a preference for larger birds. Although illegal, hunting has increased in recent years and is driven by market demand. This challenges the widely held belief that waterbird hunting in India is a low intensity, subsistence activity, and undermines the importance of agricultural wetlands in waterbird conservation.