Kishore Rithe, a former engineering professor with a passion for tigers, is creating a network of model organizations to protect India's forests and wildlife. He is helping locals and conservationists work with government, journalists, national and global organizations to save India's fragile ecosystems.
Environmentalists are calling for stringent measures to curb these threats and to double the protected areas, but government agencies have not succeeded in initiating or managing long-term participatory conservation programs. As forest officials rotate every three years, they rarely have the in-depth knowledge of local conditions required to effectively solve problems. The lack of adequate resources also constrains their ability to gather vital data and monitor large areas.
In addition, development organizations often criticize wildlife conservation efforts as favoring a few tigers over the millions of poor people in India. To many, the priorities seem skewed and the meager results don't seem to justify the great expense. While there are many good organizations doing important work, they haven't succeeded in balancing human development with nature and wildlife conservation on a large scale.
As part of an effort to build a conservation ethic among government officials, academics, and journalists, Kishore runs three-day camps for them to learn about the country's conservation challenges. He believes they must understand and seriously consider the problems faced by people who depend on the natural environment for their survival. These camps are particularly important for political leaders, government employees, and judges who create and implement policies pertaining to wildlife and nature conservation.
Finally, Kishore plans to link local organizations with universities to conduct in-depth research through volunteers. NCSA's advocacy efforts succeeded because they were backed by extensive field research. Involving universities will also ease resource constraints by aiding local park officials and citizen organizations in data collection and analysis. Through print and electronic media, Kishore aims to educate the public about threats to wildlife reserves and protected areas. Public lectures, tours of wildlife parks, trainings, and debates are other means to achieve this end. Through his columns in The Hindustan, a local language newspaper, Kishore aims to create general awareness rather than to polarize activists and government officials. Discussion and diplomacy are his tactics of choice in solving conflicts.
The Satpura Foundation inherits from NCSA a large network of national and international organizations working towards wildlife management. Among the Indian organizations are Wildlife Trust of India, Bombay Natural History Society, World Wildlife Fund, Sanctuary Asia, Ranthambore Foundation, Wildlife Protection Society of India, Kalpavriksha, the Center for Wildlife Studies, and Wildlife First. Kishore's international partners include U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service, Environmental Investigation Agency, Care for the Wild International, Tiger Protection Fund-Japan, NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) Network, Smithsonian USA, and the Makarere University in Uganda.
Through the NCSA, Kishore succeeded in getting villagers, local park officials, and environmental organizations to trust each other and start a dialogue. Prior to that, government directives and plans in the Melghat Tiger Reserve were not being implemented. As he began implementing his ideas, Kishore shared his insights about working with local communities through the media. His early successes gained him recognition from national and international conservation groups. After several years as an engineering professor, Kishore gave up his job to devote himself full-time to conserving India's remaining forests and wildlife.