Young Naturalist Award 2021
Researcher, anthropologist, and conservationist
At 24, Ramya Nair has become an integral member of the community of Thanamir Village, Nagaland. Since 2019, under a project managed by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and guided by Dr. Sahil Nijhawan, Ramya works with the Yimkhiung Naga community to document the biodiversity of their ancestral forests. She chose to identify and immerse herself in local life, participating in their daily chores and setting up a small children’s library. Additionally, her team conducts extensive surveys and interviews, hike through steep forest slopes in sub-zero temperatures to deploy camera traps, with the aim to liaise with the village council and co-develop sensitive, rights-based conservation strategies.
Ramya’s grace, humour and humility have won her the respect of her hosts. She is learning three local languages and dialects spoken in the region -- a skill that has helped establish trust and reciprocity.
Prior to her work in Thanamir, Ramya led a research project affiliated with the Wildlife Conservation Society-India (WCS-India), under the guidance of Dr. Vidya Athreya, to explore human-big cat relations among the Indigenous Warli community in Maharashtra.
Currently, she engages with the Thanamir student union and village council on collaborative research and conservation in the region. Ramya Nair is a promising young conservation leader, deeply-rooted in the ethics of balancing wildlife, communities and ecosystems.