Dr. Shekhar Kolipaka is a biosocial conservation researcher. He has a broad academic profile with an MSc in Environmental Sciences from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal University, South Africa and a PhD with multi-disciplinary subjects (Cultural Anthropology and Wildlife Biology) from Leiden University. He also has an MBA from the Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies, India and an MPhil in Natural Resource Management from Indian Institute of Forest Management. Dr. Shekhar Kolipaka research focuses on human-wildlife relationships and finding solutions for human-wildlife coexistence in human-dominated landscapes.
In his first project in 2000, he examined the status and distribution of the endangered Indian caracal in India. The synthesis of his work is published as a book, ‘The Forgotten Cat: Caracal in India’. His interests also extend to other lesser known wildcats and small carnivores and studying such relatively unknown animals have allowed him to collect a wealth of information on Indian wildlife. He published some of that information in a book titled ‘Tracks and Signs of India wildlife. He spent a considerable amount of time in the Panna landscape of Madhya Pradesh, where he has local patronage. Such local patronage allowed him to address important and complex human-wildlife issues. For instance, during 2007-08 when tigers became extinct in the Panna national park and the park management wanted local people’s support for the tiger reintroduction project, he advised the park management and through an action research project brought in different groups of locally influential people and made them actively participate and support the government’s efforts to revive the tiger numbers and make the program a success. His four years of work with the local people is published as a book titled, ‘Assessing Change to a Human-Tiger Coexistence Scenario using Theory U’. Following his work on people aspects, he examined how the increasing numbers of reintroduced tigers in Panna, as they expanded into the adjoining human use lands, and people living there, co-adapted. His encouraging findings are published in the book ‘Can tigers survive in human-dominated landscapes?’
Current research project: Inclusive research communication
In this action research project that he started in India in January 2018, he and his team involve local faith leaders to communicate his research findings on tigers, local poaching activities and heritage sites (rock art sites) to local communities. He hopes to gain insights into the practicality and effectiveness of involving faith leaders in communicating wildlife and forest conservation messages. He is also designing survey tools, a syllabus and a training curriculum for conservation biologists and conservation managers who are not trained in social sciences but continue to engage with people communities as part of their work. The two-year project is funded De-Fries Baj Pai Foundation, USA and Leo Foundation, The Netherlands.