WCS India Program Staff
Ms. Prakriti Srivastava joined as Country Director of Wildlife Conservation Society India Program in 2018. She has been with the Indian Forest Service for the past 27 years, while serving on the Kerala cadre as well as various capacities in the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. During this time Ms. Srivastava was renowned both for her unflinching support of wildlife and forest conservation, and for her ability, often at great personal cost, to catalyse a wide variety of tangible and profound conservation successes. Ms. Srivastava, along with her very committed team and with support from Forest Department and the Government, has many achievements including: catalysing innumerable tough law enforcement actions against illegal encroachers, wildlife traffickers, timber smugglers and illicit timber factories in some of Kerala’s most important landscapes for wildlife; working with key government colleagues to create four new national parks and to improve the protection status of many other forests; initiating in collaboration with local communities a highly successful Olive-Ridley Turtle conservation program; framing the Government of India’s highly pro-conservation policies for CITES, CMS and other wildlife conservation policies for the country including those for the National Board of Wildlife.
Dr. Devcharan Jathanna
Dr. Devcharan Jathanna initially joined WCS India program in 1998 and has worked on the ecology of large carnivores and their prey since then. He currently works as Associate Director – Conservation Science. He handles study design, data analysis and scientific publication-related activities. Along with Killivalavan Rayar, he oversees the field research and data processing, for WCS India Program’s long-term research on large carnivores and their prey. He also provides technical support to other research programmes within WCS India, coordinates with national and international research collaborators, develops proposals towards raising funds, obtaining permits and facilitating collaborations with partner institutions, and helps put together donor and technical reports. He also trains WCS research staff in various aspects of field research and data analysis, teaches courses, and guides students at the WCS-NCBS MSc Programme in Wildlife Biology & Conservation.
Dev, as he’s known to friends and colleagues, received his MSc in Wildlife Science from the Wildlife Institute of India in 2001, and his PhD from Manipal University in 2016. His doctoral research focused on generating understanding of the biology and ecology of Western Ghats small carnivore species that is relevant to their conservation, using a diversity of approaches. He is proficient in distance sampling, capture recapture modelling, occupancy estimation, other statistical modelling, as well as study design and field data collection protocols for these different analytical approaches. Dev has extensive experience in designing and conducting academic courses, technical workshops and field training programs, for field research staff, MSc & PhD students and faculty in India, southeast Asia and central Asia, since 2006.
Pandira Medappa Muthanna
Pandira Medappa Muthanna initially joined WCS India program in 2000. He currently works as Assistant Director – Conservation Support. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Arts in 1991 and Law in 1995 from the University of Mysore.
Based in Hunsur, Karnataka, Muthanna’s area of expertise covers the Malenad Mysore Tiger Landscape and extends into Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Besides effective conservation interventions to secure wildlands – Muthanna has played a key role in motivating more than 500 families from Nagarahole and over 49 families from the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary to relocate under the government sponsored relocation program. He was conferred with the WCS Service Award in 2006 in recognition of his outstanding services to wildlife conservation.
Dr. Ajith Kumar
Dr. Ajith Kumar joined WCS India Program in 2003. He currently works as the Director of the Post-Graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, initiated by WCS – India Program in partnership with National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore and Joint Director of WCS India Program. Ajith trains wildlife biologists to become passionate conservation leaders through a two-year Masters course. He obtained his Masters degree in Zoology from Kerala University and Doctorate from Cambridge University in 1987 on thesis titled, ‘The ecology and population dynamics of the lion-tailed macaque’. A professor at the Wildlife Institute of India, Ajith has inspired students at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History in Coimbatore before joining WCS India Program. He also runs an active research program on the distribution and ecology of mammals in the Western Ghats and the Himalayas, where he studies patterns of distribution, impacts of habitat fragmentation, wildlife in human modified landscapes and feeding and reproductive ecology. As the director of the WCS-NCBS Wildlife Master’s program, Ajith has trained over 60 students and has established a dynamic network of researchers, professors and institutions keen to devote time to local capacity building in India.
Dr. Varun Goswami
Dr. Varun R. Goswami initially joined WCS India Program in 2003, and currently works as Associate Director – Conservation Science. He obtained his Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation in 2006 from the multi-institutional graduate program at NCBS-TIFR, Bangalore, offered by NCBS in collaboration with WCS India Program. He thereafter got his Doctorate from the University of Florida in 2013 for his thesis, ‘Of Populations, Habitat and People: The Asian Elephant in a World Fast Changing’. Population ecologist, Dr. Madan K. Oli, was his PhD advisor. Varun’s overarching goal is to work towards the conservation of wildlife and their habitats in its broadest sense. Towards such an end, his research interests are largely applied in nature, and aimed at building a strong scientific basis for conservation action and policy. He uses various population ecology and estimation methods including capture–recapture and occupancy models, as well as matrix population modelling, to provide mechanistic insights into the opportunities and challenges of conserving threatened wildlife in an anthropogenic world.
Varun has particular expertise in studying and conserving the endangered Asian elephant. His master’s research involved the first application of photographic capture–recapture modelling towards reliable estimation of demographic parameters for Asian elephants. His PhD research was also focused on investigating the conservation potential of heterogeneous, human-dominated landscapes for the species. He has used his knowledge and understanding of elephant ecology, as well as his expertise in advanced population estimation and modelling methodologies, to build and shape WCS India Program’s research efforts on elephants across India. He also co-founded a programme on wildlife research and conservation in Northeast India––a region Varun calls home. Varun has received grants from US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), IUCN–KfW Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme, World Wildlife Fund Asian Rhinoceros and Elephant Action Strategy (WWF-AREAS) among others, and awards for outstanding graduate research from the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida. He is a member of the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group. He also co-teaches population ecology and estimation at the WCS–NCBS MSc Programme in Wildlife Biology & Conservation.
Vinay Kumar M.C.
Mr. Vinay Kumar joined WCS India Program in 2010. He is currently works as Assistant Director – Conservation support and policy. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Bangalore University in 1986. A Customs Officer by profession, he has served as a Union Leader at Customs both at the State and National level.
Vinay began volunteering with WCS – India Program in the year 2004. Based in Bangalore, Vinay engages with senior government officials, elected representatives and social leaders to foster conservation support and timely policy interventions, making the best of his skills in interacting with people.
Mr. Killivalavan Rayar joined WCS India program in 2010. He currently works with as Assistant Director – Conservation Science. He obtained his Masters in Wildlife Biology & Conservation from the MSc Programme jointly conducted by WCS India and NCBS/TIFR in 2010, having switched from his previous career as an engineer with Intel. His research interests include the field application of novel monitoring approaches to estimate wildlife population parameters, and the conservation impacts of developmental projects within forest areas. Prior to taking up wildlife research and conservation as a full-time career, he was the founding member of a civil society organization to promote wildlife conservation, and had participated in research and conservation projects as a volunteer since 2002, including coordinating a part of the Karnataka state-wide surveys for tiger occupancy in 2006-2007. He plans, coordinates and executes field activities for the multi-year project on Meta-population Dynamics of Tigers in Karnataka, as well as in other states. He has extensive experience in training field research staff including field interns, new recruits and survey volunteers, and has helped conduct training programs for field staff (both NGO and government) in India and Thailand.
Dr. Vidya Athreya
Dr. Vidya Athreya initially joined WCS India Program in 2011. She currently works as Associate Director – Conservation Science. She obtained her MS in Ecology from Pondicherry in 1993 and a MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Iowa, USA in 2000. Dr. Athreya obtained her doctorate from Manipal University in 2012 for her thesis, ‘Conflict resolution and leopard conservation in a human dominated landscape’. Based in Pune, Vidya has been studying human-leopard conflict in Maharashtra for the past decade. She also works closely with Protected Area managers and the public to mitigate conflicts involving big cats.
Vidya has been working in landscapes of Western Maharashtra where leopards share spaces with humans. A member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, she has assisted in formulating state and national level policy guidelines on managing human-leopard conflict. Vidya’s research work has led to an increased awareness of large carnivores outside Protected Areas in India. Vidya was awarded the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in 2011, TN Koshoo Memorial Award in 2012 and the Maharana Udai Singh Award in 2013.
To know more about her work, please visit: www.projectwaghoba.in and www.mumbaikarsforsgnp.com
Dr. Krithi K. Karanth
Dr. Krithi K. Karanth joined WCS India program in 2012. She is an Associate Conservation Scientist at WCS New York. She is also Senior Fellow at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Teaching Faculty at NCBS and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Duke University. She obtained her Masters in Environmental Science from Yale in 2003 and Doctorate in Environmental Science and Policy from Duke University in 2008.
Dr. Karanth’s research spans over 20 years and encompasses a broad range of issues examining human dimensions of wildlife conservation in Asia. She has conducted macro-level studies assessing patterns of bird, mammal and amphibian distributions and extinctions, impacts of wildlife tourism in reserves, consequences of voluntary resettlement, land use change and understanding human-wildlife interactions. This has resulted in 45 peer-reviewed scientific publications and 37 popular articles in English and Kannada. She has received grants and awards from the US National Science Foundation, Indian Government, SNAPP, Oracle, National Geographic Society, Rufford as well as Yale, Duke, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon and University of Cambridge. Dr. Karanth has served on the editorial boards of Conservation Biology, Conservation Letters and Frontiers in Ecology and Environment. Since 2010, she has has mentored over 80 young scientists and engaged > 500 citizen science volunteers in her research and conservation projects.
Dr. Karanth was honoured by National Geographic Society’s as their 10,000th grantee in 2011 and Emerging Explorer for 2012. She was also selected to be among India’s Power Women by Femina (2012) and Women of the Year by Elle India (2013). She was University of Florida’s Outstanding Young Alumnus and INK Fellow in 2013. In 2015, the World Economic Forum chose her as a Young Global Leader and in 2017, Vogue-India recognised her among the Women of the Year.
Imran Siddiqui joined WCS India Program in 2013 and is currently working as Assistant Director – Conservation Science. He obtained his Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from NCBS-WCS MSc Programme. He is currently serving as an external expert to guide Forest Departments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in tiger and prey monitoring.
Imran is credited for the incorporation of 2000 sq km of critical forest habitat of Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary under the Project Tiger. Additionally, he was responsible for increasing the area of Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve to almost 6000 sq km from 3500 sq km previously.
He has worked extensively in Central Indian Forests for over a decade, and his skills include large mammal surveys, statistical analyses and advanced GIS techniques. With extensive work experience, a deep understanding of the local setting, his existing connections and his technical training, Imran co-founded a HyTiCoS in 2002, and leads a group of volunteers for wildlife conservation.
He has also carried out various capacity building programmes for over 700 frontline staff and has designed short wildlife courses for the Forest Department. He works closely with local tribal communities who he believes are the most important stakeholders in any conservation scheme.
Ms. Mrunmayee joined WCS India program in 2013 as a Program Manager. She currently works as Assistant Director for Finance and Administration. She obtained her Bachelors degree in Business Management in 2009 from Kuvempu University and worked with Northern Trust Bank in Bangalore for three years before officially joining WCS India Program. She started working for WCS India Program’s field projects as a volunteer in 2009 when she was still studying in college. Since then, she regularly participated in line transect surveys, human wildlife conflict surveys, distribution survey, boundary mapping survey and validation of camera trapped pictures of tigers and leopards of the program. Through her involvement in field activities she brought in strong understanding of the field projects for better administration of the program and management of finances.
Dr. Divya Vasudev
Dr. Divya Vasudev joined WCS India Program in 2014 and is currently working as Associate Director – Conservation Science. She obtained her Masters of Science from the multi-institutional post-graduate program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation in 2006, offered by NCBS in collaboration with WCS – India Program. She obtained her Doctorate from University of Florida in 2013, majoring in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, under the advisement of Dr. Robert J. Fletcher. Her thesis was titled ‘Species Dispersal Behavior and Connectivity in Fragmented Landscapes’.
Divya’s broad-scale interests are in applying scientific research to the conservation of species in fragmented landscapes. As part of her doctoral dissertation research, she formulated a framework for the systematic incorporation of species- and individual-specific traits into our understanding of species dispersal limitations. She then went on to focus on two intrinsic constraints in terms of their influence on our theoretical understanding of connectivity and our practice of connectivity conservation. First, she assessed the influence of mate choice on post-dispersal reproductive success, and hence on shaping spatial patterns on effective dispersal between populations. Second, she used observations on movement behavior of the endangered western hoolock gibbon to prioritize conservation fragments in a heterogeneous landscape. Divya has received awards and grants from multiple institutions including the Bay and Paul Foundation, University of Florida and the Rufford Small Grants Program. She has also been awarded the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology INSPIRE Faculty Award.
Gopalakrishne Gowda K H:
Mr. Gopalakrishne Gowda joined WCS India Program in 2015 as Senior Advisor – Policy and Conservation. He obtained his Masters in Physics from University of Mysore.
Mr. Gopalakrishne Gowda served Government of Karnataka in various capacities starting from Assistant Commissioner to the Principal Secretary to Government of Karnataka since 1975 until he retired in 2012 as an IAS officer. He has served as Assistant Commissioner, Special Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner in districts which house various tiger reserve areas of Karnataka. During this period he worked with WCS India Program for the cause of conservation including the rehabilitation of tribals from Bhadra Tiger Reserve, supported the team during the closure of the Kudremukh mine, and also played a major role in notifying more than one lakh acres of land in Koppa forest division as a reserve forest.
Praneet joined WCS India Program as Chief Development Officer in 2018, and leads fund-raising efforts. He completed his MBA from Gonzaga University, USA in 1999 and worked for Keytronic EMS and Telect in Washington till 2004. He then came back to India and joined Intel as a Senior Buyer and later as a Global Commodity Manager driving strategic sourcing and procurement. Praneet was Business Operations Manager at Intel and part of the Intel India leadership team in 2016 when he left Intel to pursue his interest in wildlife conservation. He has also spent several years teaching, coaching and mentoring individuals and teams and is a certified Life and Leadership Coach.
Praneet has spent time exploring wilderness areas in different parts of the world and experienced different cultures, all of which have influenced his outlook on life and motivated him to work for the conservation of wildlife and wild places. He has led a voluntary group which is now registered as Vanodaya for five years which aims to conserve and protect Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka. He has been associated with WCS India since 2005 as part of our citizen science program and has actively participated in many of our field projects.
Jayalakshmi joined WCS India in 2018 and heads the Media and Outreach team. She has been a passionate journalist for the last 25 years, reporting stories mainly on science and environmental issues. She completed her MSc from Bangalore University and Post-Graduation in Diploma in journalism in 1990. She then worked on the desk at Times of India following which she worked at Deccan Herald for 15 years. She was handling the Sunday magazine, science sections and opinion pages. She worked with Energy and Environment Consulting Company for five years where she handled corporate communications. She has also worked with International Business Times where she was writing on Science and Environment.
Through her career in Media, she has published over 1,000 articles, mostly on science and the environment. She has also taught journalism students at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.
WCS India Program Partners
Armed with an unwavering commitment to conservation, Mr. DV Girish has been associated with WCS – India Program as a conservation partner since 1994.
A resident of Chikmagalur, in Karnataka, Girish has worked towards wildlife conservation and intervention by educating and training thousands of people, especially children in the last 20 years. He has played an active role in advocating key conservation interventions in Bhadra landscape in the Western Ghats. He has also been responsible for many positive reforms like rehabilitation of villages from wildlife habitats, to closure of mining, dams, resorts and other commercial projects in Kudremukh. He has helped found Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust, Nature Conservation Guild and WildCat-C – locally active conservation groups based in Chikmagalur. He is recognized internationally for his involvement and role in the relocation of 14 villages out of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary by interacting closely with the people and government institutions.
Girish was conferred with the WCS Service Award in 1998, the Karnataka Rajyotsava District Award in 2001, the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in 2002, and the Tiger Gold award in 2004 in recognition of his outstanding services to wildlife conservation.
Mr. Shekar Dattatri obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology in 1983 and thereafter produced and shot many natural history films for international television channels. He has been honored with national awards in India and at wildlife film festivals in Italy, U.S.A. and Japan among others.
In 1997, Shekar produced and filmed Nagarahole – Tales from an Indian Jungle, a 53-minute natural history documentary on the famed Nagarahole forest in Karnataka, which also featured the work of WCS scientist, K. Ullas Karanth. His film, Mindless Mining – The Tragedy of Kudremukh, was made to augment a campaign by several NGOs allied with WCS – India Program, against iron ore mining within the Kudremukh National Park in the Western Ghats. The hard hitting 12-minute film helped turn the tide of public and political opinion against the mining project. His collaborations with WCS – India Program include Voluntary Resettlement – A Win Win Solution, on the successful resettlement of several hundred families from the Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Monitoring Tigers and their Prey, a training video on tiger and herbivore population estimation techniques, The Truth about Tigers, a first-of-its-kind educational video on tigers and their conservation in India, and 25 Years with Tigers, a 17-minute film that showcases the pioneering research and conservation work of WCS – India Program under the leadership of Dr. Ullas Karanth. Based out of Chennai, Shekar has authored two children’s books on wildlife, and numerous articles on conservation in leading newspapers and magazines. In partnership with Ramki Sreenivasan. he co-founded India’s most popular conservation portal, www.conservationindia.org.
To know more about his work, please visit: www.shekardattatri.com
WCS India Founding Director