Creating awareness on wildlife through sport

Posted on
08 December 2010
Volleyball tournament kindles conservation spirit in an important landscape 

A haven for endemic and threatened wildlife
Running parallel to the Arabian Sea in west peninsular India, the Western Ghats is a region of spectacular beauty and diverse wildlife. These hills are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots where over 5,000 flowering plants, 139 mammals, nearly 500 birds and 179 amphibian species thrive. A large number of these are endemic. At least 325 of the species occurring here are globally threatened. This hill range covers 60,000 km2 and forms the catchment area for rivers that drain over 30% of India.

The region’s importance for wildlife conservation can be gauged from the fact that nearly 30% of the global population of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and 17% of the world’s existing tigers (Panthera tigris) are found here. These are being protected through several nationally and internationally renowned Protected Areas - wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves, national parks and conservation reserves.

WWF’s involvement
Historically, WWF-India has had a presence in the region with active involvement since the early nineties through its Biodiversity 'Hotspots' Conservation Programme (1993-2005). The main focus of our current work is at identifying and mapping critical wildlife corridors, mitigating human-elephant conflict, strengthening protected area management, promoting sustainable livelihoods and assessing the status of key species like the Nilgiri Tahr outside protected areas to develop conservation strategies. WWF-India is also involved in the estimation of tiger populations in some key areas of the Nilgiris and Western Ghats.

Building trust with wildlife conflict affected communities
WWF-India is focussing on developing strong relationships and partnerships with community groups in the region. Towards this, a volleyball tournament was held in November this year at Anaikatty, a small village near Masinagudi along the fringes of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.  Twenty five teams from villages and small towns across the Nilgiris-Western Ghats landscape travelled to Anaikatty to take part in the tournament. The teams represented settlements like Moyar, Gudalur and Satyamangalam, all of which are surrounded by forests and unfortunately witness human-wildlife conflict, particularly with the elephants.  A team also participated from Mysore City.

A first time initiative for WWF-India, this sporting event is a step to bring together youth from different forest areas. The tournament was witnessed by more than 1300 people from villages surrounding Anaikatty. They got to see the excellent sporting skills on the field and sportsmanship among the youth who are living in this area. 

According to Dr. V. Dakshinamurthy, Landscape Coordinator (Community Development), Nilgiris-Western Ghats Landscape The event was organised by Anaikatty youth sports club with WWF-India sponsoring the sports equipment.  There were some emotional gestures made by the local communities. While one village stepped forward to sponsor cash prizes to the top three teams, an anti-poaching watcher sponsored Rs. 1000 from his own pocket to encourage youth from his settlement to participate in the event.” 

Mr. Ramasubramaniam, IFS, DFO Nilgiris North Division and Dakshinamurthy gave away the trophy to the winning team on the day of the tournament. Dr. Rajeev Shrivastav, IFS, Field Director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, and community leaders graced the occasion. 

Conservation through sport
Says Dakshin, “The youth of Annaikatty say that this has brought the communities together for the first time in the name of conservation.

This message by Siva Kumar,
 a member of the Ayyan Youth Sports Club, Annaikatty, and a participant of the event, may bode well for the wildlife here “We are very happy that WWF has helped us to conduct this tournament that has brought together many youth from nearby villages and towns. This is the first time we have received this kind of support from any organisation and we look forward to the same in the future from WWF-India. We will do our best to coordinate the various initiatives of WWF-India in our village and also spread the message of conservation. One of the best interventions of WWF-India has been to train us to maintain solar fence that helps prevent wild animals enter our communities and we shall help communities maintain the same.”


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