TitleChasms in charismatic species research: Seventy years of carnivore science and its implications for conservation and policy in India
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSrivathsa A, Banerjee A, Banerjee S, Chawla MMathew, Das A, Ganguly D, Rodrigues RG, Adhya T, Bhatia S, Kshettry A, Majgaonkar I, Punjabi GA, Puri M, Singh P, Surve N
Date Published09/2022

Substantial research and conservation resources are invested towards studying, protecting, and managing carnivore populations, globally. But scholarly investigations that link the outcomes of ecological research and their applications are not commonplace. Such syntheses can have implications for large predator management and human well-being. India holds strategic importance for carnivore conservation and management, supporting 60 species (including two sub-species), at relatively high densities. Reviewing all carnivore studies published in post-independence India (1947-2020), we investigate the academic impacts of published journal articles, and the role of institutions and collaborative research. We then present an analysis of the thematic patterns, trends, and biases in carnivore research. Using multiple case studies, we discuss the pertinence of ecological research in shaping litigation, policy, and conservation, while also deliberating on the facilitative role of funding and bureaucracy. Despite their purported charisma, not all carnivores benefited from extensive ecological studies, nor did conservation policy adequately draw from available scientific information; research studies were skewed towards large felids, and litigation/policies were overwhelmingly shaped by one species, the Bengal tiger Panthera tigris. We argue for reorienting current research efforts through increased focus on lesser-known species, adopting best practices in socio-ecological studies, widening the ambit of interdisciplinary work, democratizing carnivore science through partnerships, and enhancing synergy between carnivore researchers and research groups. Considered together, we believe this paper can serve as a guide for planning future research, for amplifying the overall profile of carnivore conservation science, and may be adapted across tropical countries of the Global South.