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Topic: Covid-19 or the pandemic of abused biodiversity

Date:  May 22, 2021

Time: 3 pm- 4:30 pm

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The whole world has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and perhaps India is worst in the second wave of the COVID. We all fear for the health and life of ours, our loved ones and also those who are most vulnerable. In the span of just a few weeks of this second wave, Covid-19 has devastated the country and suddenly become most urgent than the crises of ongoing climate change or the dangerous decline in biodiversity.

However, like other major epidemics (AIDS, Ebola, SARS, etc.), is the emergence of the Corona Virus is not unrelated to the climate and biodiversity crises we are experiencing? What do these pandemics tell us about the state of biodiversity? Is there any connection between the blatant destruction of the biodiversity and Covid-19.


Abi Tamim Vanak, Senior Fellow (Associate Prof), Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)

Anish Andheria, President & CEO, Wildlife Conservation Trust

Siddharth Edake, Fellow & Convener, Centre for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services, Land Resources Division, TERI

Moderated by:

P N Vasanti, PhD, Director General, Centre for Media Studies

Dr. Abi Tamim Vanak is an animal ecologist and conservation biologist. His current work focuses on the ecology and conservation of India's semi-arid savanna grasslands and its unique set of endemic and endangered fauna.
Abi's conservation work started in the early 1990's as volunteer on the beaches of Chennai with the Student's Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN). Most of his current work focuses on the ecology and conservation of India's semi-arid savanna grasslands and its unique set of endemic and endangered fauna. He is also on the forefront of research in examining how a diverse assemblage of large herbivores and carnivores survive in human-dominated landscapes, especially given the huge pressures from rapidly changing agricultural and social tolerance landscapes. An important and pioneering aspect of this research examines competition between wild carnivores and domestic dogs. Abi is well published in the top journals in the field of ecology and conservation as well as being on the editorial board of two of the top conservation journals.
He holds a Bachelors degree in zoology from the Loyola College, Chennai, a Masters degree in wildlife science from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun and Ph.D. In wildlife science from the University of Missouri, Columbia and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.
In 2012 he was awarded one of the first National Environment Sciences Fellowships from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which he is using to map the last of the semi-arid savanna grasslands of peninsular India. He is currently a faculty at the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore.

A Carl Zeiss Conservation Awardee, Dr. Anish. P. Andheria is a fellow of LEAD and the President of the Wildlife Conservation Trust. Upon completing his Doctorate from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Anish went on to pursue his passion with a Master’s Degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. He is a large carnivore biologist with field expertise in predator-prey relationships. A wildlife photographer of repute, Anish has photographed some of the remotest wildlife reserves in India. He has co-authored two books on Indian wildlife and contributed to several other national and international publications.
Anish has played a pivotal role in setting up the renowned Kids For Tigers initiative, a nationwide conservation education programme that has reached out to millions of school children across India. He is a member of the steering committee of both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh State Boards of Wildlife and the Madhya Pradesh State Tiger Conservation Foundation Society. Anish is also a trustee of the Climate Reality Project, India and the Conservation Wildlands Trust.
A distinguished Alumni Awardee from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Anish is a natural communicator and is one of India’s leading motivational speakers. He has introduced thousands of people to the joys of nature and the rationale for nature conservation.

Mr Siddharth Edake is a Master’s of Science (M.Sc.) in Biodiversity and currently is working as a Fellow and Area Convener of the Centre for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (CBES) at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi. For more than a decade, he has focused on conserving forests and biodiversity across India through research and action. His passions include wildlife photography and traveling.
He has been working on documenting as well as establishing as well as strengthening Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) in the state of Nagaland since 2015. Prior to TERI, he has worked in the capacity of Project Manager at Wildlife S.O.S Leopard Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Junnar, Maharashtra (also in New Delhi with the same organization and headed the Animal Welfare Programmes in the city among other responsibilities) and as Sr. Project Officer, Corbett Foundation in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh.
Mr Edake has organised & conducted several capacity building workshops for government agencies, state forest departments, NGOs & communities within the country. He has also been actively writing scientific as well as popular articles on biodiversity and forest resources focusing on conservation, traditional knowledge, livelihood and sustainable development. Since 2013, he has co-authored 10 articles, blogs, book chapters in areas relevant to the forestry & biodiversity theme and has 4 publications in reputed journals.

Dr (Ms) Vasanti Rao is founder member and currently the Director General of CMS (Centre for Media Studies) - a research based think tank in India, since 1991 (www.cmsindia.org). She also directs CMS VATAVARAN – Asia’s largest international film festival and forum on environment & wildlife (www.cmsvatavaran.org).
She has completed her PhD in Media Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University and has double Masters degrees in Psychology (Jamia Milia Islamia) and Management (FMS, Delhi University).
She is a researcher, teacher and policy adviser on various media and communication issues.
Dr Vasanti specializes in strategy development, designing, researching and evaluating development communication initiatives. She often gives advises, lectures, writes on the current Media Scene and Trends in India; Use of Mass Communication in Development Programs; Role and Impact of Mass media; Communication Research; Behavior Change Communication and Entertainment Education Strategies.
Gender, Children and Conservation are three key areas of her concern and expertise. She has been part of number of government and non-government bodies / committees (including the Ministry Committee in drafting the Content Guidelines for the Broadcast Sector, Ad-hoc task force of the Cabinet Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office, etc.). She has to her credit numerous policy inputs, designing and organizing multi stakeholder events and research based publications.

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