Sumantha Ghosh

Mahseer Conservancy President and founder Sumantha Ghosh has recently been shortlisted as a nominee for the Green Hero Award by NDTV for his conservation efforts in Uttarakhand. He started his career at Tiger Tops in the Corbett Area and has since been here for nearly 15 years, in that time he has gained a reputation as one of the finest naturalist of the area.

 

He was part of the Forest Departments ongoing project of containing the Lantana Weed that grows so readily here. For 5 years he was one of the leading personnel in both the annual tiger and elephant census’s spending months inside Corbett National Park tracking these beasts on foot.

 

He still works closely with the Corbett Foundation on the largest Cattle Compensation Scheme in the world, and once led a team which tracked down a wounded tigress in Corbett receiving a letter of appreciation from the Director of the Park.

In the past he has had classes in Herpetology at the Calcutta Snake Park, the finest Snake Park in India, and been professionally involved with the RSPB, World Pheasant Association (UK), Animal Foundation (USA), Fish and Wildlife Department (USA) amongst many others.

 

Thanks to his efforts and the support of Mr Rajeev Bhartari and the Corbett Forest Officials he has achieved a situation communities have been turned pro-conservation and benefit themselves, and the otters and stocks of mahseer and other fish have returned to the protected Ramganga.

 

Hem Bagahuna

From the Garhwal area of Uttarakhand on the fringe of Corbett National Park, and since early childhood was constantly surrounded and immersed in wildlife. In 1993 he was responsible training the first batch of nature guides ever in Corbett National Park.

 

After that he has been part of the forest fire-fighting squad, taken part in many bird and mammal census’s, as part of the Corbett Foundation’s cattle kill compensation team, and been employed as a mediator during times of conflict between local village people and the forest department. Hem has also won the Corbett annual bird quiz a record four times in a row. His help, knowledge and local touch has always been instrumental for Mahseer Conservancy right from the start.

 

When the Dhiwar tribe, who made their livelihood catching fish, needed to be turned round to the idea of conservation, possibly no one other than Hem Bagahuna could have succeeded.

Keith Waters

Keith has been with the Mahseer Conservancy since early 2008. Hailing from Southern Africa and having travelled the world to over 25 Countries, on four different continents he has gained valuable first hand experience in the conflict that can occur between Man & Animals as well as broad knowledge base of World Wildlife. He was one of the youngest ever members of the Swaziland Ornithologist Society.

 

Whilst working in the Corbett Area his passion for snakes has led him to set up the first Snake conservation project in the area. Working closely with the villages he has helped rescue and release many volatile and endangered species such as the Common Krait, Spectacled Cobra, Indian Rock Python and King Cobra.

 

His work in the Corbett area has often seen him making the News and has been interviewed on various occasions by NDTV for his role in Mahseer Conservation, Snake Conservation and his opinions on the effects of tourism in India.

He participated in a Sustainable Tourism course headed by Caroline Wild and Rajeev Bhartari, and works closely with TOFT in the Corbett Area. He has led countless tours into Corbett Tiger Reserve and the surrounding areas.

 

Ollie Gray-Read

Ollie joined Mahseer Conservation in 2008, and is an ecologist and wildlife enthusiast from Cornwall, UK. He has since been working at Vanghat Riverine Woods in the wildlife team and recently gave a talk on Mahseer Conservation at the national 2009 ATOAI (Adventure Tour Operators Association India) Conference in Dehradun, and an interview on vnaghat for FM Rainbow and an interview on the vulture conservation program on Sahara Samay news channel.

 

Previous to coming to India he has worked for several wildlife and conservation bodies such as the National Seal Sanctuary in his home county of Cornwall, UK and Eko-Centre Caput-Insulae, a vulture rescue, rehabilitation and conservation centre on the island of Cres, Croatia. There he was involved in cliff rescues of juvenile Eurasian Griffons (Gyps fulvus), monitoring of feeding sites and rehabilitation of rescued vultures.

Additional vocational training undertaken includes in training reptile survey methods by CRAG (Cornwall Reptiles & Amphibians Group) for a UK National Reptile Survey (NARRS) in 2007, and has gained certification through British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) an international marine animal rescue organization, as a marine mammal medic. His academic qualifications are Environmental Resource Management (BSc) and Applied Zoology (FdSc), specializing in using macro-invertebrate surveys to biologically assess the water quality of surrounding natural and artificial waterbodies.

 

Frederique LaCraz

After studying Physical and Life Sciences in Ireland Frederique knew she wanted to learn about renewable energies and climate change. The following two years, she moved to Corsica to learn much more about renewable energies, seeing many kinds of energy supplier, going from wind turbines to solar panels, through water heating systems, uses of dams, combustion of wood and fuels (with the chemistry associated), got a meteorology and global warming lecture and also ways for making sustainable development and energy mastering.

 

With that background and the love for travels, Frederique wanted to actually apply her knowledge to areas where the access to energy was hard to get, outside European countries. Arriving in Corbett through part of a separate training course Frederique ended up working with Mahseer Conservancy, becoming part of the forest use survey at the beginning when the whole project was getting started.

Since then, Frederique has undertaken responsibility for field work in the Forest Use survey, accompanying local women on their rounds, and studying the environmental and social impacts of firewood collection and deforestation in the buffer zone of Corbett Tiger Reserve. Her background in renewable and sustainable energy has been very useful in the development of the second aim of this project providing villagers with alternative energy supplies.

 

One alternative that she is currently working on is placed under the name “WELFARE”. It stands for Women Empowerment through Lantana Furniture, Artifacts and Restoration of the Environment, and has been launched to improve the lives of the villagers with a general objective to reduce both the woman-tiger conflicts and the impact of the villagers on the forest.


As the main coordinator for this project, Frederique is focusing on two projects dealing with rural women. One is to help a girl from Ringora village to sell her artifacts, the Neema Dolls, bags, etc. The other project is to use the invasive weed Lantana Camara and to make furniture out of it. Three villages have been selected to conduct training sessions on the making process of the furniture. The turnover of all those products goes directly to the communities.

 

In a further aspect, Frederique would like to introduce sustainable alternatives like solar ovens, smokeless chulah and solar panels in rural areas where it could reduce the dependence on forest products and bring electricity in remote or deprived areas.

 

Bramanand Sundriyal

Deep in the densely wooded Ramganga valley where even locals dread to venture a tall and bearded man proudly dressed in Khaki patrols his beat come rain or shine. Brahmanand or Pandatji is not only looking for poachers but scolds away his own relatives and locals who now come occasionally to catch Mahseer for the plate. He says his brain tumour is now gone ever since he has taken up the task of saving the Mahseer and the wildlife in this stunningly beautiful valley.

 

Brahmanand’s village Baluli is strategically placed in the spot where the Ramganga River enters the famed Corbett Tiger Reserve. After years of being completely ignored by lodge owners and the forest department the turning point in his life came when his son was sent to the Cauvery to learn about eco-tourism or angling. Today the dividends paid by conservation are evident. Anglers, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts now frequent vanghat riverine woods, where both he and his son work with utmost dedication.

In the tiger infested forest around Baluli and Vanghat Bramanand has been charged by tigers and wild elephants while patrolling and braved the wild monsoon floodwaters of the Ramganga River, but is not in the least deterred and zealously guards his valley and its wildlife, making it now a safe home to the mahseer and many other species again.

 

Ganesh Rawat

This fearless journalist and one of the original founding members of Mahseer conservancy is the first to report regarding anything to do with wildlife in this part of Uttarakhand, specialising in wildlife and environment related stories. He recently won the Corbett Foundation wildlife service award promotion of nature conservation award -2009 for journalists’ category.