Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Fostering a Sense of Collective Responsibility for Effective Biodiversity Monitoring

A bull gaur in Nagarahole, one of the species assessed in forest areas during the WCS project.
A bull gaur in Nagarahole, one of the species assessed in forest areas during the WCS project.
© CI/photo by Samba Kumar, WCS

Innovative Features

Within three CEPF-identified corridors in Karnataka, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) carried out rigorous scientific monitoring to assess the status of several species and levels of conservation threats across 600,000 hectares of biodiversity-rich areas. The information collected during the project contributed to the expansion of protected areas in Karnataka by nearly 100,000 hectares. 

The project also trained more than 500 volunteers from civil society groups, including local community volunteers, students and teachers, and 100 staff from the state forest department to enhance their technical capability to monitor and manage these biodiversity areas better. The enthusiasm and active participation in this training indicates the immense potential for the continued biodiversity monitoring.  

  • Motivating and building technical capacity within the staff of a state agency – Motivating staff from the state forest department proved to be difficult. To overcome this challenge, discussions and continuous interactions were needed between the wildlife managers at key individual sites and the state forest department staff at multiple levels in order to enable involvement of the forest department staff in the annual monitoring exercises. Regular workshops, informal discussions and interactions were held exclusively with department staff before, during and after field work.

    This persistent follow-up sustained over the long term was essential to building the technical capacity of the state agency. In the end 100 department staff members were trained in monitoring methods and use of field equipment, and were encouraged to participate in collection of data.

    In order to actively support site-specific conservation initiatives of the forest department, regular meetings were held with senior officials and inputs were provided to the forest department for management of the protected areas.

  • Difficulty in implementing the project design – Enhancing protected area management effectiveness through improved technical capacity of civil society and state agencies was difficult. A well-thought-out strategy that embedded the individual project components within the overarching goals of the long-term program was essential to implementing the project.

    According to Samba Kumar, joint director of science and conservation with WCS, “This was a tremendous, coordinated group effort and commitment over the long term by a local lead implementation agency with a strong network of site-specific partners who enthusiastically participated in monitoring surveys.”

    The project strengthened the network of local civil society groups and state agencies to monitor biodiversity within and around protected areas beyond the project period. WCS is in the process of publishing the cutting-edge methods employed in the CEPF study in peer-reviewed journals such that these monitoring tools can be replicated elsewhere. 

Keys to Success
  • Expanding the impacts of training in field survey techniques – More than 500 civil society members were trained in the field survey techniques. Besides introducing the trainees to sampling-based biodiversity monitoring techniques, the participants were also exposed to the site-specific conservation issues, allowing civil society volunteers to understand and appreciate the challenges involved in protected-area management by state agencies.

    Following the training, several of the volunteers were offered field internships, of which 20 were subsequently recruited for intensive field work upon successful completion of the internship.

    The project also strengthened relationships with federal and state government agencies in order to continue monitoring with the network of committed civil society partners in key sites over the long term.

    “This project helped safeguard India’s wildlife legacy by enabling capacity building and effective conservation action by individuals, who became passionate about protecting biodiversity and saving wildlife,” said Kumar.

  • Catalyzing funding for long-term success – The success of the project has helped to attract long-term donor support for WCS work in India. During the project period, WCS local implementation partner, the Center for Wildlife Studies, obtained an extension of the permit from the state forest department to continue monitoring animal populations in this landscape for an additional five years. This will allow WCS to sustain the conservation monitoring work through the network of local partners.
​Improving Protected Area Effectiveness through Enhanced Civil Society Support and Rigorous Monitoring of Wildlife Populations and Conservation Threats

Purpose: Carry out rigorous scientific monitoring to assess the status of several species and levels of conservation threats in the Sahyadri-Konkan, Malnad-Kodagu and Mysore-Nilgiri corridors within Karnataka State. Involve and train civil society groups and the state forest department to enhance their technical capability to monitor and manage these areas in addition to providing critical management inputs.  


The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. It does so through science, conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on earth. WCS has furthered its global mission in India since 1988 through activities of its staff and partners. 

Contact: N. Samba Kumar, joint director - science and conservation