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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Green Oscar [Whitley Award] for protecting Indian Bustard - Dr Pramod Patil

WFN Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal gave a wonderfully reflective speech to over 450 guests at the end of the 2015 Whitley Awards Ceremony  - wonder what ?  Had earlier posted  about this Award, known as ‘Green Oscar’ not only because 2 Indians have become the recipients – also for the cause for which it stands ! ~ the earlier post was on  Dr Anandakumar ~this is on Pramod Patil.

The great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is a bustard found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds. Once common on the dry plains of the Indian subcontinent, as few as 250 individuals were estimated in 2011 to survive and the species is critically endangered by hunting and loss of its habitat, which consists of large expanses of dry grassland and scrub.

The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity offering awards and grants to outstanding nature conservationists around the world.  The Whitley Awards are given  annually by the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) to recognise and celebrate effective national and regional conservation leaders across the globe. The awards are worth £30,000 (2007) and are now amongst the most high profile of conservation prizes - they have been called the "Green Oscars". The awards particularly seek to recognise contributions to conservation made from outside the developed world, and to bring to international attention the work of deserving individuals committed to precipitating long-lasting conservation benefits on the ground.

The great Indian bustard is a large ground bird with a height of about a metre. It is unmistakable with its black cap contrasting with the pale head and neck. The body is brownish with a black patch spotted in white. The male is deep sandy buff coloured and during the breeding season has a black breast band. The crown of the head is black and crested and is puffed up by displaying males. In the female which is smaller than the male, the head and neck are not pure white and the breast band is either rudimentary, broken or absent.   In Maharashtra, there is a sanctuary dedicated to this bird - Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary  (Jawaharlal Nehru Bustard Sanctuary) established in 1979.   Maharashtra is one of the six states of India where great Indian bustards (Ardeotis nigriceps) are still seen .

From a common bird often seen on the fields, this bustard has become critically endangered,  having been extirpated from 90% of its former range in India. The largest remaining population is found in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, a vast landscape of sand dunes, scrublands and grasslands.  After his first sighting of the great Indian bustard in 2003, Pramod Patil, who was a young doctor at the time, made the life-changing decision to leave medicine and dedicate his life to the conservation of this rare bird.  Now working for the Bombay Natural History Society, Pramod’s past career has meant he is well equipped to gain the trust and respect of local people living in the Thar Desert, and establish the great Indian bustard as a flagship for grassland conservation.

By working with communities and the State Forest Department, Pramod and his team are helping to change opinions, develop positive relationships between authorities and local people, and enable better management of grasslands on which both communities and bustards depend.  With his dedication, Pramod is trying to increase capacity of Forest Depts addressing poaching; establish a participatory monitoring network engaging common people; educating communities raising awareness on the sustainable livelihoods in line with conservation efforts.

Pune-based ornithologist Pramod Patil has won with the prestigious Whitley Award, popularly known as the ‘Green Oscar’ this year, for his work on the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard . The awards were presented on April 29 at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Nine winners from eight countries (a joint winner from Kenya) were presented the awards by WFN’s royal patron Princess Anne in the presence of 450 guests that included eminent English naturalist Sir David Attenborough.  Dr. Patil bagged the prize along with Dr Ananda Kumar, a wildlife scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), who has worked extensively in Valparai in Coimbatore to facilitate human-animal coexistence.

Dr. Patil was the winner of the Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust for his project titled ‘Community conservation of the great Indian bustard in the Thar desert, India: a landscape-level approach.’  Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of the Whitley Fund for Nature, added: “Whitley Award winners are simply exceptional people - passionate individuals who are committed to achieving positive environmental impact and long-term conservation and community benefits.”

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
19th May 2015.
Source : photos and news : http://whitleyaward.org/winners/


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