Bridging the gap: sharing responsibility for ecological restoration and wildlife conservation on private lands in Western Ghat

A major conservation issue, particularly in the tropics, is habitat loss and fragmentation due to developmental activities and increasing human populations. Ecologists today recognise that much of the once-pristine forests that are now secondary forests, as well as large areas outside existing conservation reserves, harbouring significant levels of biological diversity need to be targeted for long-term conservation. Governmental agencies such as the Forest Department and the conservation community have come to accept that the conventional patrol and protect method has its limitations in addressing the increasing threats to such conservation areas. A complementary strategy is to develop conservation plans for protection and improvement by ecological restoration of forests, particularly isolated fragments and degraded areas on private lands. This requires bridging gaps between private landowners, governmental agencies, and non-governmental conservation organisations and fostering efforts based on mutual cooperation and collaboration as well as developing positive incentives for private landholders involved in conservation of forests and biological diversity. In this paper, we discuss one of the first examples of such an effort of sharing responsibility for long-term conservation in a highly disturbed tropical rainforest region of the Western Ghats.