NCBS alumnus wins Carl Zeiss Conservation Award 2014

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Shashank Dalvi

Shashank Dalvi, alumnus of NCBS's post-graduate program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation received the Carl Zeiss Conservation Award for 2014. Padma Vibhushan Shri. Karan Singh presented a trophy and a pair of Carl Zeiss binoculars (Zeiss Victory 8x42 T*FL) to Dalvi on 25th April 2014 at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. The Carl Zeiss group chose Dalvi as one of its awardees in recognition of his recent contribution to the conservation of Amur falcons in the north-eastern state of Nagaland.

The Amur falcon is a small bird of prey that breeds in Siberia and northern China and migrates to warmer regions such as southern Africa during winter. During the course of this migration, many thousands of Amur falcons break their journey in north-eastern Indian states such as Nagaland. There had been rampant rumors of locals hunting these insectivorous falcons for meat - but so far it had not been documented in any way. Dalvi, together with Ramki Sreenivasan, Bano H. and Rokohebi K., visited Doyang Reservoir in Nagaland in October 2012 and were appalled at what they saw: locals had hunted between 120000-140000 birds. "We carefully documented the entire hunting process with videos and photos," says Dalvi. "We launched the Amur Falcon campaign on the Conservation India website. The campaign went viral as the page received more than 100,000 hits in the first few days. This conservation issue was picked up by media all over the globe."

Amur falcon

A lithograph of the Amur falcon by Joseph Wolf in 1868. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Several leading publishing houses covered this news. Dalvi and his colleagues also published their findings in Science, and this lent them further international coverage. "Meanwhile we launched the Amur Falcon Conservation Project via the Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust in 2013," says Dalvi. Locals were sensitivized to the issue and politicians and Forest Departments pitched in too. High-level governmental support, patrolling and enforcement, community engagement and a comprehensive conservation education program, says Dalvi, resulted in a drastic change: "Not a single Amur falcon was poached this year."

It is not surprising then that the Carl Zeiss Group, an international leader in the fields of optics and optoelectronics, chose Dalvi for this year's Conservation Award. "I credit this award to my team rather than to me as an individual," says Dalvi. "Thanks to the effort of Ramki, Bano and Roko we were able to formulate a plan to prevent another crisis and save the Amur Falcons. I am glad that Carl Zeiss recognized our work," he says. "Of course I love my new binocs!" adds Dalvi who is currently a Research Associate with the Centre for Wildlife Studies (Bangalore, India) and part of a team documenting the biological diversity of the Western Ghats mountain range of southern India.


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