Zeeshan Mirza And Sanap Rajesh

Wildlife Service Award (2014)

Explorers. Conservation biologists. Wildlife photographers.

Zeeshan Mirza and Rajesh Sanap say tigers are just great, but they find creatures that creep, crawl and slither far more intriguing. Having rejected the trappings of city life in favour of exploring the hidden natural treasures of India’s far-flung forests, this young duo are at the very start of their conservation biology careers. Together, they have already discovered and described an astounding 23 species of lizards, scorpions and spiders that science never even knew existed, and are in the process of describing several more.

Having grown up on the border of the biodiverse Aarey Milk Colony in Mumbai, their love for nature’s small wonders saw their friendship and association flourish through the documentation of Aarey’s biodiversity. Both currently work as Research Associates with the National Centre for Biological Sciences and are involved with the documentation of the herpetofauna of Tripura, and the scorpions and tarantulas of India. Conservation biologists in the best sense of the profession, they are fighting against the illegal wildlife pet trade, which is plundering Indian forests of its most striking arachnids and reptiles. Convinced that India is losing some of its most important secondary predators to habitat destruction and uncontrolled pesticide use, they are working to win public and legal support for tarantula spiders that they say should be listed under Schedule 1 of India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

For this, we honour them.