BENGALURU: Conservation warrior and leader from the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Jayachandran S, has won this year’s prestigious Sanctuary Wildlife Award for his pioneering work in key protected areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
The Ooty-based conservation activist and long-term conservation partner of Wildlife Conservation Society, India, has won the prestigious ‘Wildlife Service Award’ presented by the Sanctuary Nature Foundation. Since the last three decades, Jayachandran has been a key conservation leader in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and surrounding areas. In 1990, he started the Tamil Nadu Green Movement which has been actively assisting the forest departments in law enforcement and advocacy.
Speaking to Express, Jayachandran said he was was deeply honoured and would continue working for the cause of Nilgiri conservation which has seen many attempts to disrupt its unique heritage. He added, “I started working for conservation in 1980 and there were so many issues pertaining to wildlife habitat and its protection. In fact, I filed PIL and won a case against a Mumbai company who put up a huge structure in shola forests of Nilgiris. They were fined `50 lakh. This was the start of my activism and I went on to work at the grassroots level.”
The conservationist added, “Twenty-one hardcore poachers from Tamil Nadu who where responsible for killing many elephants in Kerala were reformed by my efforts. It took five long years to negotiate and convince them. Today, they are working as forest watchers in Kerala forest department.”
The conservationist has assisted both Tamil Nadu and Kerala Forest Departments in busting poaching rackets, including the arrest of Kerala-based poachers linked to an international illegal ivory trader in 2015. Often facing great risk, he has assisted the forest departments in the southern states in apprehending hardened poachers and has made seizures.
Thanks to the initiatives of Jayachandran, many ex-poachers are now transformed and are currently engaged in conservation activities in the Nilgiris. Jayachandran has been instrumental in stopping several road and tourism infrastructure projects in ecologically important forest areas including BRT Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, Mudumalai and Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserves in Tamil Nadu.
Recalling the Observatory project of the Indian Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Jayachandran added, “This project, very close to Mudumulai, would have involved digging tunnels to a depth of 1,500 feet and resulted in debris of 6 lakh metric tons. At the public hearing, I questioned them how they would have disposed this debris but they had no answers. Later, the Observatory project was completely stopped and shifted to southern part of the state. In fact, two important tiger reserves, Bandipur and Mudumalai, would have been affected.”