In June, ADMCF funded the first Cambridge University Student Conference on Conservation Science, in Asia. The three-day conference, which was put together by National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, the University of Cambridge and the Tropical Biology Association, was held in Bangalore, India and was attended by 318 students.
The conference aimed to facilitate interaction, exchange of ideas and methods among young scientists, building contacts and knowledge among young researchers in all aspects of conversation science.
The conference was structured around expert plenary speakers who provided the students with first-hand accounts of different aspects of conservation as well as exceptional case studies demonstrating the connectivity between scientific analysis and conservation.
The plenary speakers included: Professor Ruth Defries (Professor at Columbia University, NY), Dr Rhyss Green (Principle research scientist at the RSPB and Honorary Professor at Cambridge University) and a distinguished, inspirational conservationist Rom Whitaker who has spent most of his sixty odd years in India working with large crocodiles and snakes.
In addition there were several panel discussions and 20 research presentations by students.
Most of the students attending the conference were zoologists. Thus there was emphasis on wildlife conservation and the specific problem of human conflict with often rare and endangered animals such as species of leopards, tigers, elephants, crocodiles.
India has incredible biodiversity and impressive wildlife, however its increasing population and accelerating urbanization is threatening many habitats essential for the survival of many species.
One of the expected outcomes was increased contact with previously remote wildlife with often disastrous consequences for both humans and animals. Some conservation solutions have been to move problem animals such as rogue elephants and leopards to less urban environments often hundreds of kilometers away.
However these animals have extremely strong territorial instincts and there are many cases where relocated animals have managed to walk and navigate long distances, eventually finding their way back to their original territory.
In doing so they often traverse densely populated urban centres, busy flyovers and highways. In one case a relocated elephant literally swam out to sea, probably mistaking it for a large lake, while trying to relocate its original home.
Conservation students are increasing in number in India, but as always there are not enough for the issues the country is facing. Building capacity and supporting young conservationists is essential for the continued conservation of India’s deteriorating environment.
A second conference will be held in Bangalore next year.