Wildlife Service Award (2002)
Trained in wildlife management at the Wildlife Institute of India, Rakesh Shukla did his Ph.D. on the wildlife ecology of Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. A perfect combination of research and conservation, he won the Madhya Pradesh State Award for meritorious service in the field of wildlife research and ecological monitoring for his work in the Kanha Tiger Reserve, where he has been posted for the past eight years. Much of our recent knowledge of this world-famous tiger reserve now comes from his work, which involves ecological monitoring, data collection and original research. Not content to bask in the knowledge that the hardground barasingha deer had been returned from the brink of extinction, he instituted a system of daily monitoring of the threatened deer and their interaction with tigers. This he achieved by imparting sensible training to his forest staff and by introducing new biological and behavioural parameters into their reporting formats. When the sal borer infestation took place in Madhya Pradesh, he was assigned the responsibility of monitoring the impact of the infestation in Kanha. On the basis of his findings, it was determined that there was no need to fell sal trees in the park. This met with predictable opposition from officers in other departments who seemed more inclined to follow diktats that would have seen precious wild forests stacked in timber godowns. However, Shukla held firm and this enabled thousands of trees to be saved.