Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Brockwood Graduate - Suprabha Seshan

Kerala - Kozhikode
Award for Indian conservationist by R Madhavan Nair
Date:14/05/2006 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2006/05/14/stories/2006051403580200.htm Back

Suprabha Seshan and HRH Princess Anne

KOZHIKODE: Director of Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary at Mananthavadi in Wayanad district Suprabha Seshan has won the United Kingdom's top conservation award for her commitment in protecting and propagating some of India's rare and unique plants.

Ms. Suprabha received the Whitley Award sponsored by WWF-UK from HRH The Princess Royal at a prestigious ceremony at London's Royal Geographical Society on May 10, a spokesperson for the sanctuary told The Hindu.

Ms. Suprabha's conservation efforts are focussed on south west India's Western Ghats. Though the forests there have been depleted by many factors and only 10 per cent of the original forest remains. Western Ghats is considered one of the world's most diverse and unique ecosystems. Conservation efforts in the Western Ghats have gained in importance as 50 per cent of the native plants are believed to be taken for the world's medicinal market and 20 per cent are under threat of extinction within the next 20 years.

Director of the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, Suprabha, 39, has lived in the forests of the Western Ghats for 13 years. She works with a trained team of local women on what she calls "ecosystem gardening" — propagating, nurturing and reseeding the largest collection of native plants in the region, and working with local villagers and farmers to reintroduce species to degraded places where they were once found.

Over the years, the sanctuary had acquired areas of degraded land and restored them back to native forest.

Species diversity and forest structure have returned in areas that were once completely devastated. Forty per cent of the gene pool is endemic, including orchids, impatiens, pepper, grasses, gingers, mosses and ferns, according to conservationists working for the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is located 750 metres above the edge of a reserve forest, and its wet, warm climate (receiving eight months of rain a year) means they can grow rich and complex semi-natural plant communities.

Ms. Suprabha Seshan said in an email: "Our ecosystem gardening involves tending, reseeding and reconstructing habitat structure in a variety of native ecosystems, as well as removing exotic alien species. Now we have begun to re-introduce species to degraded places where they were once found."

Since 1994, the Whitley awards are being given annually and each award is worth £30,000. Founder and Chairman of the Whitley Fund for Nature Edward Whitley said that "Suprabha's dedication and hard work has helped to establish this unique sanctuary as a vital resource for the future".

This sanctuary situated in Mananthavadi in Wayanad district of Kerala is also now considered an important learning centre. It is visited by thousands of urban and rural people, and schoolchildren each year. Subrabha and her friends are engaged in restoring whole habitats in the Western Ghats.

One thing the award will now make possible, says Suprabha, is an additional greenhouse and a jeep. "All plant survey and collection work has been accomplished, at great expense and trouble, without our own vehicle," she said in a message e-mailed to The Hindu from London.

The Whitley Fund for Nature - the charity behind the Whitley Awards - is a UK based conservation charity that supports science based conservation work that benefits local communities. The Whitley Awards are worth £30,000 each and are one of the largest nature conservation awards available.

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