Published: 23rd June 2021
Krithi Karanth becomes first Asian woman to win WILD Innovators Award for her work in understanding human-animal conflict
Krithi Karanth, Chief Conservation Scientist at Centre for Wildlife Studies, and recent winner of the WILD Innovators Award talks about her one true love
Human-wildlife conflict is a reality. As India’s population grows, so does the fight between the two groups for food, water, shelter and other necessities. But conservation scientist Krithi Karanth believes that we can find ways to reduce this conflict and encourage people to live in peace with wildlife. Over the years, to achieve this much-needed balance, she has ideated several initiatives, including compensating people who’ve lost their crops or livestock due to attacks by wild animals.
For her efforts, Krithi was awarded the WILD Innovators Award, the first for an Asian woman on April 27, 2021. This award is bestowed by the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation that brings together innovators, advocates and partners to identify solutions for conservation. The foundation partners with premier science and conservation experts across the world and also with celebrities and influencers who promote interdependence. According to the citation, Krithi was given the award for researching human dimensions in wildlife for over 20 years.
Explaining the need for practical conservation solutions, Krithi says, “As there’s rapid economic growth, booming infrastructure, expansion of roads and highways and mining, there is more pressure being put on places that we have for wildlife. We need a generation of people to really take action to ensure that we don’t lose whatever we have. If you look at pre-independence India, there was a lot of environmental destruction. To some extent, we had regained some of what we’ve lost, thanks to good laws, lots of NGOs and the government working in different ways to protect wildlife. I think the next twenty years or so will decide whether we continue to build on that or regress and lose all the conservation gains and successes we’ve had.”
Through Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), a centre for wildlife research, training, and in situ conservation, Krithi has developed several programmes that aim to encourage peaceful coexistence. The centre also provides extensive support to families living in and around wildlife reserves, offers services such as conflict mitigation, education, healthcare, agriculture, finance and alternative livelihoods. The centre was established by Krithi’s father, K Ullas Karanth, who is a renowned conservationist himself.
As part of her efforts, Krithi started three programmes. Wild Shaale is an environmental and conservation education programme that aims to nurture interest and inculcate empathy towards India’s wildlife and wild places. Designed for 10-13-year-olds living in areas close to wildlife, the curriculum features locally-specific wildlife, ecosystems and conservation issues. The programme has been implemented in 407 schools as of March 2020, reaching as many as 20,350 children. Wild Surakshe is a programme mainly centred around public awareness and training communities to cope with zoonotic diseases and human-wildlife conflict. Wild Seve is a programme designed to build tolerance towards wildlife by providing access to government-mandated wildlife schemes.
When asked if all these conservation efforts are taken seriously by people, she says, “I think there are a lot of people who are interested in conservation. It’s just that they may not understand the language we scientists use. Our communication has to be simpler to engage with more people.”
Now, at 40, Krithi hopes to inspire the future generation to embrace wildlife just like she did when she was a child, exploring wildlife along with her father. She explains, “I take my kids to the forests very often and some of my favourite moments so far are when I watch my kids interact with wildlife."