Conservation at the Crossroads

Science, Society and the Future of India's Wildlife

by Dr. Ghazala Shahabuddin

Dr. Ghazala Shahabuddin

New India Foundation



Ghazala Shahabuddin’s recent talk on 30th August, 2012 at IIC, New Delhi focused on the malaise underlying India’s dominant conservation paradigm, which is for the most part one of top-down control and exclusion.

- India Water Portal

To withstand the onslaught of development and other threats, it is essential to understand how different wildlife conservation models have fared and what needs to be done. Ghazala Shahabuddin’s Conservation at the Crossroads does exactly that.

- Down to Earth


India faces an ecological crisis of massive proportions today. Over-exploitation of forests, wetlands and coasts, is eating away at vital ecological processes. Rapid and unplanned infrastructural development threatens to further fragment and devour remaining wildlife habitats. Plant and animal species are joining the ranks of the critically endangered, at faster rates than ever before. Using Sariska Tiger Reserve as an anchor, Conservation at the Crossroads: Science, Society and the Future of India’s Wildlife,
analyses the historical, socio-political and biological contexts of nature conservation in the country. It argues that the malaise is a product in part of our dominant conservation paradigm – primarily one of top-down control and exclusion. The book analyses a gamut of alternative approaches to biological conservation that are emerging in India and elsewhere, that attempt to reconcile social equity with biodiversity goals. It argues that a broad-based participatory approach to conservation, accommodating both use -based and preservationist paradigms, will be necessary, if we are to see our extraordinary wildlife survive into the next century. Environmental justice and improved governance has to be as much a part of this agenda as sound ecological science and practice.

Author Profile

Dr. Ghazala Shahabuddin

Dr. Ghazala Shahabuddin has been involved in environmental research, activism and education from an early age ever since she became an active member of the Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group. She completed her post-graduate studies in Ecology from Pondicherry University and went on to earn her PhD in Ecology and Conservation Biology from Duke University, USA (1998) under the supervision of the pioneering biologist John Terborgh. For her PhD, she studied the effects of forest fragmentation on butterfly species and communities, as well as tree species regeneration, in Lago Guri, Venezuela. Since then, Ghazala’s research interests have expanded to the science and politics of wildlife conservation in India, nurtured by her association with Council for Social Development (2002-2005) and Ambedkar University, Delhi (2009-2014). She has written extensively on conservation-induced displacement, science-conservation linkages, and sustainable forest extraction. Her book Conservation at the Crossroads , supported by the New India Foundation, critically examines contemporary biodiversity policy in India (Permanent Black and NIF, 2010). She also has co-edited (with historian Mahesh Rangarajan), two other books- Nature Without Borders (2014) and Making Conservation Work (2007). She has taught several courses in conservation policy, statistics and ecology, mainly at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University, where she helped develop the Master’s and PhD programme in Environment and Development. Since 2014, she has been associated with the Uttarakhand-based non-profit Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR) where she is working on forest birds’ survival and extinction in the middle Himalaya. She is also working on a new book (co-edited with Dr. K. Sivaramakrishnan of Yale University) on the policy and practice of wildlife conservation in post-liberalization India, with support from the Centre for Advanced Studies of India at the University of Pennsylvania.