The Sanctuary Nature Foundation will present the 20th Sanctuary Wildlife Awards supported by DSP Mutual Fund and IndusInd Bank and co-sponsored by GreenKo, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai.
The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards were instituted in the year 2000 to recognise Earth Heroes, to shine a light on their work and express gratitude for their selfless work towards the protection of wildlife and natural habitats in India.
These superheroes come in different avatars – forest officials, policy influencers, lawyers, writers, educationists, activists, scientists, orators, artists and children. These are nature’s spokespersons who are determined and committed to making their dreams come true, of leaving behind a planet that someday will not need protection from our own kind.
In their 20th year, the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards have become more relevant than ever before because across the world the realisation has dawned that the economies and the existence of humans is dependent on our ability to protect the Earth’s threatened biosphere.
Here is the look at this year’s winners:
Lifetime Service Award: (An individual who has spent his or her life in the joyful defense of wild nature) Vinod Rishi, Dehradun – Wildlife warrior, anti-poaching strategist, climate specialist, former Additional Director General of Forests (Wildlife). After 37 years working for the Indian Forest Service his passion has only grown stronger. One amongst the old guard of India’s wildlife conservation movement, his contribution to India’s natural heritage spans parks, states and disciplines.
Young Naturalist Awards: Nehara Pandey, Goa – School student, scuba diver, marine activist and conservation communicator. She is a 17-year old ocean connoisseur from Goa, who, through creative short films, body art and her schools’ Nature Club, is actively spreading her love for marine ecosystems to her peers.
Taukeer Alam, Uttarakhand – Self-taught bird expert, trekker, citizen scientist and Gujjar community representative. Now a field assistant with the Nature Science Initiative, Dehradun, Taukeer Alam shares his immense knowledge of avian species with birdwatchers who visit the state from across the globe.
Green Teacher Award: (An inspiring individual with missionary zeal and a proven environmental track record, setting an example for other educators to follow.)
Laxmi Maravi, Madhya Pradesh – Forest guard, environmental educator, anti-poaching squad member and community collaborator. A forest guard from the Kanha National Park with an abiding love for young children, who she believes are the most effective ambassadors for tomorrow.
Wildlife Service Awards:(Outstanding individuals involved within situ nature conservation)
Abhijit Rabha, Assam – Senior Forest Officer, anti-insurgency specialist, wildlife defender and inspiring leader. A member of Assam’s indigenous Rabha community, Abhijit Rabha is a career Indian Forest Service officer, currently serving as Special Principal Conservator of Forests at the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council.
Arun Prasad, Uttarakhand – Livelihoods creator, community tourism advocate and traditional beekeeping trainer. Founder of the Devalsari Samiti, 29-year-old Arun has created an eco-tourism model to benefit both people and the forest.
Chandni Gurusrikar, Karnataka – Cauvery forest and river guardian, community champion, wildlife conservationist and academic coordinator. For over a decade, with her husband, Ashwin, and a team of urban and rural volunteers from their Vanodaya Wildlife Trust, she has worked with the Karnataka Forest Department to mitigate human-elephant conflict, locate and deactivate snares and conduct anti-poaching patrols in Karnataka’s biodiversity-rich Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
Debadityo Sinha, Uttar Pradesh – Zoologist, writer and researcher, Green Tribunal litigant and conservation campaigner. He strives for the protection of little known wildernesses in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Having set up the Vindhyan Ecology and Natural History Foundation, Debadityo Sinha actively litigates for environmental justice at the National Green Tribunal.
Kheer Babu Pardhi & Mahila Bai Pardhi – Community pioneer, next generation nurturers, forest defenders and wildlife protectors. Amongst the first to publicly give up hunting, the duo are caregivers to dozens of school going Pardhi children.
“Gone are the days when those protecting wild species and ecosystems had to justify the reason for doing what they do. Today mounting evidence from over 1,200 globally scientists makes it clear that unless we protect the biodiversity that controls the carbon cycle we have no hope at all of dealing with the climate crisis that has begun to overwhelm us. The women and men we honour with the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards are nation builders in every sense of the word. They are the heroes we want young India to look up to. They will be recognised as freedom fighters who saved our world from ourselves for generations to come.”, expressed Bittu Sahgal, founder and editor of Sanctuary Asia.