GUWAHATI, Sept 25 - Dr Goutam Narayan has become the first Indian conservationist to get the Harry Messel Award for Conservation Leadership announced during the IUCN Species Survival Commission Leaders’ Meeting held in Abu Dhabi recently.
The citation mentions that Narayan has been given the award “in recognition of his pivotal role in leading the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme in North Eastern India since 1995, thus saving a whole genus from extinction, and his long service to the SSC Wild Pig Specialist Group.”
The Harry Messel Award recognises exemplary service to the IUCN Species Survival Commission, especially from individuals who have made a specific contribution to species conservation on the ground or through their leadership, as part of the work of an SSC Specialist Group or Task Force.
Dr Narayan has been instrumental in reviving the long-term survival prospects of the critically endangered pigmy hog through the Pigmy Hog Conservation Centre at Basistha in Guwahati that runs a captive breeding programme for the elusive animal.
Announced at an interval of two to four years, so far 18 individuals and an organisation have been given the award since its inception in 2004. The Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP), a collaborative project of the Assam Forest Department, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change of the Government of India, IUCN-SSC, Wild Pig Specialist Group (WPSG) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, is administered by EcoSystems-India, a local trust for biodiversity conservation.
Dr Narayan began his career in 1980 at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) under Dr Salim Ali and after working in projects on the Bengal floricans, vultures and other threatened species, he became the BNHS Conservation Officer in 1991. In 1995, he joined Durrell Wildlife and established the PHCP in Assam with the then WPSG chair, William Oliver, to save the critically endangered pygmy hogs that were reduced to a single population on the verge of extinction. Over the past 20 years, the PHCP has secured the future of the species through conservation breeding and reintroduction in restored grassland habitats.
In 2014, he received the Royal Bank of Scotland Earth Heroes Awards under the ‘Save the Species’ category at the annual conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums in New Delhi.