WCS – India Program believes in the application of reliable science as a basis for all conservation action. All our research projects are implemented by our staff scientists, research fellows, students and associates.
Our core ecological research projects are executed by our long-term partner, Centre for Wildlife Studies at Bangalore. Other major partners in science are USGS-Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Indian Statistical Institute, Wildlife Institute of India and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment.
Our long-term research projects focus on endangered species such as tiger, leopard, dhole, elephant and large mammals, with a special emphasis on understanding the behavior and population dynamics of India’s national animal – the tiger. Additionally, we assess conservation issues such as human impacts and conflicts with wildlife, resource and forest product extraction, grazing, fires, hunting, tourism and land use change adjacent to reserves.
In India, we have pioneered the development of advanced wildlife study methods including line transect sample surveys for counting large mammals; techniques for safe capture, sedation and radio-tracking of large carnivores; photographic capture-recapture sampling using automated camera traps, and habitat occupancy estimation from sign surveys for a diverse range of species including tigers, leopards, dholes, elephants and other large mammals. Other focal areas of research have been development of advanced statistical models for animal population assessments, studies of human dimensions of wildlife conservation and more recently, adaptive management and structured decision-making in conservation.
Our original research findings as well as conservation practices that we implement are developed in partnership with high caliber institutions and individuals who are world leaders in their own fields. Our robust methods and practices in wildlife conservation are being increasingly adopted by the National Governments as well as non-governmental conservation organizations across Asia. Thus, leveraging our impact on wildlife conservation way beyond India’s biogeographic boundaries.
The tiger (Panthera tigris) has been the flagship species for biodiversity and wildlife conservation in India since 1972. India has led global efforts to save tigers in terms of commitment and investments. Today over 50% of the world’s wild tigers are found in India, although less than 25% of their remaining habitat is in the country.
WCS – India Program has played a significant role in tiger recovery efforts in the country since 1988. Through unmatched scientific rigor, we have been in the forefront of understanding tigers. We have applied this science to save tigers on ground through extensive ecological surveys and conservation intervention projects. By developing cutting-edge methodologies and better conservation models and by sharing these freely with others, WCS – India Program has multiplied its conservation impact several fold world-wide.
Our major long term scientific studies on tigers include:
- Meta-population Dynamics of Tigers in Malenad-Mysore Landscape of Karnataka (2008-present).
- Distribution and Dynamics of Tiger and Prey Populations in Karnataka (2003 to 2007).
- Distribution and Dynamics of Tiger and Prey Populations in Maharashtra (2001 to 2005).
- Ecological Status and Conservation of Tigers in India (1995 to 2000).
- Ecological Status and Management of Large Carnivores (1989 to 1995).
- Predator-prey Relationships in Nagarahole National Park, India (1986 to 1989).
Ecology and Behavior of Threatened Species
Several species of vertebrates, particularly carnivores and other large mammals are threatened by widespread declines and extinction because of their ecological fragility and conflict prone tendencies with people. WCS – India Program anchors its broader conservation efforts around several threatened and charismatic species. We have specifically applied our scientific skills to advance the understanding of several threatened species and taxa, and intervened decisively to assist their recovery.
Development of Methodologies
WCS – India Program has been very active in the development of methodologies related to estimating population and other related ecological parameters. Many of the methods and study protocols developed by us are now widely used globally.
WCS – India Program also supports the work of talented and promising researchers through various small grants. Such supported research (over 120 individual projects) covers a wide range of conservation topics, which are identified and executed by researchers who are not full time staff or affiliated to the Doctoral or Masters Programs that WCS – India Program supports. As the WCS – India Program Education program has grown over the years this component of supported research is now largely being funded through Research Fellowship Program and other such grants directly from WCS, New York.
Check here to see the list of past supported research projects