R Raghunath

Consultant, Other Initiatives

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BE (Electronics)
MSc (Geoinformatics)

From my younger days I have been interested in nature as most of my schooling was in the rural areas of Karnataka which gave me an ideal setting to be with nature and appreciate its beauty. I started participating regularly in the tiger and elephant censuses conducted by the forest department and often trekked with my friends across wild and beautiful landscapes. These exciting experiences consolidated my interest and love for the wild. 

After completing my graduation in Electronics Engineering from Bangalore University, I worked for a while in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and then worked as project engineer for a DST project in Karwar. But my passion for wildlife and adventure compelled me to change track and join the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS, Bangalore) in 2001, which gave me an opportunity to work in wildlife protected areas in Karnataka and exposed me to different scientific methods used in wildlife studies. 

My association with NCF started in 2002 with my involvement in the rainforest restoration project and the human – elephant conflict studies initiated by Divya and Shankar Raman in Anamalais. After that exciting stint, I joined Madhusudan for a study on livestock impacts in Bandipur National park which gave me a chance to learn about the ways of the wild and enjoy the beauty of nature. 

Presently, I manage the GIS facility at Mysore and  provide GIS/RS  support to most of the projects in NCF.



  • Journal Article
    Assessing changes in distribution of the Endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interviewbased occupancy surveys

    PDF, 585 KB

    Understanding species distributions, patterns of change and threats can form the basis for assessing the conservation status of elusive species that are difficult to survey. The snow leopard Panthera uncia is the top predator of the Central and South Asian mountains. Knowledge of the distribution and status of this elusive felid and its wild prey is limited. Using recall-based key-informant interviews we estimated site use by snow leopards and their primary wild prey, blue sheep Pseudois nayaur and Asiatic ibex Capra sibirica, across two time periods (past: –; recent: –) in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. We also conducted a threat assessment for the recent period. Probability of site use was similar across the two time periods for snow leopards, blue sheep and ibex, whereas for wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined) overall there was an % contraction. Although our surveys were conducted in areas within the presumed distribution range of the snow leopard, we found snow leopards were using only % of the area (, km). Blue sheep and ibex had distinct distribution ranges. Snow leopards and their wild prey were not restricted to protected areas, which encompassed only % of their distribution within the study area. Migratory livestock grazing was pervasive across ibex distribution range and was the most widespread and serious conservation threat. Depredation by free-ranging dogs, and illegal hunting and wildlife trade were the other severe threats. Our results underscore the importance of community-based, landscape- scale conservation approaches and caution against reliance on geophysical and opinion-based distribution maps that have been used to estimate national and global snow leopard ranges.

  • Dataset
    Data from: Assessing changes in distribution of the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interview-based occupancy surveys.
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hp4b3

    The data set has occupancy values and local extinction probability values for 88 grids/sites of 15km X 15km each, for snow leopard, blue sheep, Asiatic ibex and wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined), across an area of 14,616 sq.km in the Himalaya and Trans-Himalaya mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India.

  • Book Chapter
    South Asia: India. In Snow leopards. Biodiversity of the world: conservation from genes to landscapes. Series editor: Philip J. Nyhus, Volume editors: Thomas McCarthy, David Mallon. 
    Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Vinod Bihari Mathur, Sambandam Sathyakumar, Abhishek Ghoshal, Rishi Kumar Sharma, Ajay Bijoor, R Raghunath, Radhika Timbadia, Panna Lal
    Elsevier - Academic Press, Pages 457-469, ISBN: 978-0-12-802213-9

    PDF, 4.31 MB

    India has a rich natural history record from the Himalaya spanning over a century. In this paper we provide an overview of existing knowledge on snow leopard, especially from the more recent studies. A knowledge gap analysis revealed barely 3% of its range is relatively well studied, although snow leopards occur pervasively across ca. 100,000 km2 in the Indian Himalaya. Only 37% of its range appears to be ‘good’ habitat. Based on recent density estimates and their extrapolation over the range, India is likely to support about 500 snow leopards. Threats vary regionally, but livestock grazing by migratory herders and recent developmental pressures appear to be the most serious conservation issues threatening snow leopard and other wildlife in the snow leopard range. Given the pervasive snow leopard occurrence and human pressures, the general consensus and national strategy is to formulate and implement knowledge based, participatory programmes over large landscapes.

  • Popular Article
    A range of fauna
    Frontline, January 9, 2015 Pages: 67-82

    PDF, 2.77 MB

    An account of a trek in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu.

  • Journal Article
    Distribution, relative abundance, and conservation status of Asian elephants in Karnataka, southern India
    M D Madhusudan, Narayan Sharma, R Raghunath, N Baskaran, C M Bipin, Sanjay Gubbi, A J T Johnsingh, Jayanta Kulkarni, H N Kumara, Prachi Mehta, Rajeev Pillay, R Sukumar
    Biological Conservation 187:34-40

    PDF, 1.57 MB

    Karnataka state in southern India supports a globally significant—and the country’s largest—population of the Asian elephant Elephas maximus. A reliable map of Asian elephant distribution and measures of spatial variation in their abundance, both vital needs for conservation and management action, are unavailable not only in Karnataka, but across its global range. Here, we use various data gathered between 2000 and 2015 to map the distribution of elephants in Karnataka at the scale of the smallest forest management unit, the ‘beat’, while also presenting data on elephant dung density for a subset of ‘elephant beats.’ Elephants occurred in 972 out of 2855 forest beats of Karnataka. Sixty percent of these 972 beats—and 55% of the forest habitat—lay outside notified protected areas (PAs), and included lands designated for agricultural production and human dwelling. While median elephant dung density inside protected areas was nearly thrice as much as outside, elephants routinely occurred in or used habitats outside PAs where human density, land fraction under cultivation, and the interface between human-dominated areas and forests were greater. Based on our data, it is clear that India’s framework for elephant conservation— which legally protects the species wherever it occurs, but protects only some of its habitats—while being appropriate in furthering their conservation within PAs, seriously falters in situations where elephants reside in and/or seasonally use areas outside PAs. Attempts to further elephant conservation in production and dwelling areas have extracted high costs in human, elephant, material and monetary terms in Karnataka. In such settings, conservation planning exercises are necessary to determine where the needs of elephants—or humans—must take priority over the other, and to achieve that in a manner that is based not only on reliable scientific data but also on a process of public reasoning.

  • Journal Article
    An elephantine challenge: human–elephant conflict distribution in the largest Asian elephant population, southern India
    Biodiversity Conservation DOI 10.1007/s10531-014-0621-x

    PDF, 1.01 MB

    Wildlife conservation is a complex issue especially when it involves large carnivores or mega-herbivores that are conflict-prone. Karnataka state in southern India is known to harbor high density of wild elephants. This conservation success story also has opportunity costs for communities living in close proximity to elephants. Despite the fact that human–elephant conflict is a serious conservation and social issue, there is little quantitative understanding of conflict especially over large areas. Here we conduct the first analysis of human–elephant conflict distribution, severity and explanatory factors over the entire state of Karnataka. We use data from the state forest department records on villages that experience conflict, compensation payments made by the government, elephant den- sities, forest cover and perimeter, and presence of physical barriers to mitigate elephant conflict. In total, 60,939 incidences of crop loss were reported and US$ 2.99 m paid in compensation during April 2008–March 2011. A total of 91 people were killed by ele- phants and 101 elephants died in retaliatory killings during the study period. A total of 9.4 % of the state’s geographic area covering 25 of the 42 forest administrative divisions were affected. There was no significant difference in conflict incidences or compensation given between protected areas and non-protected areas. There was no correlation between conflict incidences/unit area and elephant density, forest cover, forest perimeter of pro- tected areas and presence of physical barriers. The results depict the importance of efficient management of physical barriers, conserving key habitat linkages, and acts as baseline data for future work.

  • Popular Article
    A problem landscape in the Western Ghats
    Hornbill, April-June, 2012 : 4-8

    PDF, 1.26 MB

  • Journal Article
    Patterns of spatiotemporal change in large mammal distribution and abundance in the southern Western Ghats, India
    Biological Conservation 144: 1567-1576

    PDF, 661 KB

    Large mammals face high risks of anthropogenic extinction owing to their larger body mass and associated life history traits. Recent worldwide mammal declines have highlighted the conservation importance of effective assessments of trends in distribution and abundance of species. Yet reliable data depicting the nature and extent of changes in population parameters is sparse, primarily due to logistical problems in covering large areas and difficulties in obtaining reliable information at large spatial scales, particularly over time. We used key informant surveys to generate detection histories for 18 species of large mammals (body mass > 2 kg) at two points in time (present and 30 years ago) in the Southern subregion of the Western Ghats global biodiversity hotspot. Multiple-season occupancy models were used to assess temporal trends in occupancy, detectability and vital rates of extinction and colonization for each species. Our results show significant declines in distribution for large carnivores, the Asian elephant and endemic ungulates and primates. There is a significant decline in detectability for 16 species, which suggests a decline in their abundance. These patterns of change in distribution and abundance repeat in our assessments of spatial variation in occupancy dynamics between the three contiguous forest complexes and two human-dominated landscapes into which the southern Western Ghats has been fragmented. Extinction rates are highest in the human-dominated landscapes. Declines in abundance for several species suggest the presence of extinction debts, which may soon be repaid with imminent range contractions and subsequent species extinctions unless immediate remedial conservation measures are taken. Detection/non-detection surveys of key informants used in an occupancy modeling framework provide potential for rapid conservation status assessments of multiple species across large spatial scales over time.

  • Popular Article
    Lure of the wild
    Frontline 27(5): 64-73

    PDF, 3.87 MB

  • Popular Article
    The Mukurthy-Mudumalai Large Mammal Corridor
    A J T Johnsingh, R Raghunath, Tarsh Thekaekara
    Sanctuary Asia, Oct 2010 : 72-73

    PDF, 742 KB

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