Chandni Gurusrikar, Karnataka
Community conservation and wildlife protection of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary
A software engineer by qualification, Chandni Gurusrikar began her career in wildlife conservation in 2008, when she started volunteering for conservation projects across the landscapes of Bandipur, Nagarahole and Bhadra Tiger Reserves. She is currently a trustee and volunteer at Vanodaya Wildlife Trust, a voluntary organisation that is active in and around Karnataka’s largest Protected Area - the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
Chandni, her husband Ashwin, who is a Sanctuary Mud on Boots Project Leader, and their team of able volunteers, focuses on community conservation through intensive awareness workshops, multi-level stakeholder engagements, wildlife research, conservation training for youths and initiatives to mitigate Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) in the region. Under their leadership, Vanodaya’s volunteers have also been assisting the Forest Department with waterhole mapping, anti-snare drives, and patrolling during major festivals when poaching activities peak. Chandni has been instrumental in providing more than 16 credible, actionable inputs on real time hunting to the department which have led to the arrest of poachers. She has also filed several RTIs and petitions to implement road closures at night in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
Aside from preserving the landscape and wildlife of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandni is a fierce protector of the others who put their lives on the line for the sake of our collective ecological security. She is closely bonded with all the ground level staff including forest watchers and village volunteers, and believes they are the key to understanding and addressing conservation realities. In 2017, she spearheaded a campaign to support forest department staff that had been illegally framed in a shootout against poachers inside the forest. She was also instrumental in raising funds for a forest watcher, Mahadev, who lost his life during an elephant driving operation.
Professionaly, an Academic Coordinator of the Post-Graduate program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, a collaborative program between the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), soft-spoken, steely-willed Chandni quietly inspires young minds to look beyond wildlife science, to wildlife conservation and community engagement.