The 18th Sanctuary Wildlife Awards were recently held in Mumbai, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). These awards aim to recognise the contribution of individuals working for the protection of wildlife and natural habitats in India and bring their work into the limelight.
The awardees were nominated by the readers of Sanctuary Asia, an environmental news magazine, and supporters from all over India.
Here are some of the winners of 2017:
Valmik Thapar: Lifetime Service Award
Valmik has spent over four decades tracking and protecting tigers. He has led several battles for their conservation and served on over 150 committees of both central and state governments. Currently, he works almost exclusively in Rajasthan with the state government. He has been instrumental in the revitalisation of parks such as Maharashtra’s beloved Tadoba Tiger Reserve. He is also an author of 32 books and a presenter of 16 international documentary films.
Jyoti Sharma: Young Naturalist Award
Jyoti is only 13 years old and is a class 8 student at JSM Public School, Sawai Madhopur. She has a deep understanding and knowledge of Ranthambore’s flora and fauna and has been an active participant in nature trails conducted by the programme coordinator Goverdhan Meena (Kids for Tigers). From assisting Goverdhan to coordinating nature trails, Jyoti has done it all. With her principal’s support, she now conducts trails for other schools in the locality, some of which see attendance by teachers as well. One of the three individuals to receive this award. Jyoti is the youngest naturalist of the year and also writes plays on conservation issues.
KS Smith: Green Teacher Award
In 1997, Smitha chose to take up teaching as a full-time profession. Ever since, she has been teaching her students to explore the beauty of nature. She has created multiple nature clubs for her school and has even led an agitation against the Kolkata municipal corporation when it decided to bulldoze dozens of trees for a road-widening project.
Jayachandran S: Wildlife Service Awards
Jayachandran is one of the five individuals to receive this award this year. He has been at the forefront of the fight to save the Nilgiri and Sathyamangalam landscape in Tamil Nadu’s Western Ghats for over three decades. It was in 1990 that he started the Tamil Nadu Green Movement, and has been instrumental in helping the Kerala and Tamil Nadu Forest Departments bust poaching rackets, make seizures and apprehend hardened poachers. He has inspired many poachers to surrender their arms and ensuring that they have alternate livelihood opportunities. Many of these ex-poachers today help the Forest Departments in blowing the cover on the modus operandi and operations of active wildlife criminals.
Rajveer Singh Rajawat: Special Sanctuary Tiger Awards
Rajveer is among the three people to receive this award. He has spent 26 years protecting the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. He has played a pivotal role in helping the Forest Department arrest some of the most notorious poachers operating in and around the park and has assisted in improving the relationship between the local communities and Forest Department. He has also aided the rescue of wild animals in dangerous situations.