About the Lecture
Despite heavy pressures of population, poverty and land hunger, India has lost only one large mammalian species in the peninsula and plains: the cheetah. In 1947, we had greater advantages in the conservation field than other developing nations. We squandered them. The conservation imperative here has always flowed from the top echelons. In British and princely India, it was shikar that prompted wildlife protection and there was more wildlife in those states where the ruler hunted than in those where he did not. After independence, nature conservation depended upon the personal interest of the prime minister. It is men, not money, which matters most in conservation. Nature and the natural heritage of the nation has hope of survival only in our effectively managed protected areas. These at least should be sacrosanct, like the embodiments of our cultural heritage such as Ajanta, Halebid and others. Conservation and economic development are not necessarily the antithesis of each other. Conservation, as good governance, is a compromise, the art of the possible, but there have to be rubicons which the government must not cross. There are a number of species now close to extinction and unlike the cheetah, we have the wherewithal to save them. So if any species now goes extinct, it would be deemed as allowed to go extinct.
About the Speaker
Dr Ranjitsinh Jhala has more than five decades of experience in wildlife conservation in India. As a member of the Indian Administrative Service, he was instrumental in drafting the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, the first comprehensive nationwide legislation that has been the basis for wildlife conservation in India. He has held several key posts such as Member Secretary of the task force for formulating Project Tiger, Director Wildlife Preservation and additional secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests. His efforts have led to the conservation of several endangered species, and an eastern subspecies of the barasingha is even named after him. Recognition of his work on has also come in the form of several awards including the Order of the Golden Ark awarded by Netherlands in 1979. He is the author of several publications as well as books. His most recent book, “A Life with Wildlife: From Princely India to the Present” (Harper Collins, 2017) is a first-hand, insider's chronicle of the history of wildlife conservation.