K. Ullas Karanth

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K. Ullas Karanth
Ullas karanth2.jpg
Kota Ullas Karanth
Born 1948
Puttur, Karnataka
Residence Bangalore
Education Msc in wildlife ecology, University of Florida; PhD Applied Zoology, Mangalore University
Alma mater NITK, Surathkal
Occupation Wildlife Conservation, Conservation Biology, Carnivora Biology
Years active 1988 to present
Employer National Centre for Biological Sciences, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Wildlife Conservation Society
Known for Tiger Conservation
Home town Bangalore
Spouse(s) Prathibha Karanth
Children Krithi Karanth
Parent(s) father: Shivram Karanth[1]
Awards J. Paul Getty Award for Conservation Leadership, Padma Shree
Website Dr K. Ullas Karanth, CWS

K. Ullas Karanth is a conservation zoologist and a leading tiger expert based in Karnataka, India. He is the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society - India Program. He is notable for pioneering the scientific use of camera traps in population density studies of large wild mammals in India. He is a Senior Conservation Scientist with the New York based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Technical Director of the WCS Tiger Conservation Program.[2] [3]

Karanth directs the WCS-I effort to help save Bengal tigers, and has conducted country-wide surveys to better estimate their population and habitat needs. Working mainly in the Nagarhole National Park, Karanth's work has demonstrated the importance of conserving prey populations in order to ensure the survival of keystone predator species such as the tiger.

In January, 2012, Karanth was conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award for his outstanding contributions to Wildlife Conservation and Environment Protection.[4]

Early life[edit]

Karanth is the son of noted Kannada writer, Shivaram Karanth. In his adolescence, Karanth read about naturalists trying to save tigers in Asia. While he resolved to join the effort, he did his B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from KREC (now known as NITK), Suratkal, where he studied from 1966 to 1971. He then tried his hand at farming in Karnataka for several years.[5]

His amateur biological observations of the flora and fauna of his native Karnataka State in Southern India, under severe pressure from incompatible human activity, spurred him to investigate conservation models for the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot. A 1983 meeting with a visiting Smithsonian Institution delegation paved the way for his travel to the US, where he studied in the National Zoo's Wildlife Conservation and Management Training Program in 1987. He obtained his master's degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida in 1988, and a Doctorate in Applied Zoology from Mangalore University in 1993.[3][4]

Studies on tiger populations[edit]

His longest single project is the monitoring of the health of forests and biodiversity in the Nagarahole Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in Karnataka. Some results arising out of the study, on the status of tigers and their prey in particular, have been published in several scientific papers and books.

Karanth is the pioneer in the scientific application of camera trapping techniques of capture-recapture sampling as the foundation of scientific estimation of tiger population densities in forests. By applying a robust statistical model to camera trapping sampling data, a close estimate of tiger population in a given area can be determined. This is distinctly different from the pugmark method previously used by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, Project Tiger five-year tiger census. It is also different in its approach in that it does not claim to produce an absolute count of tigers in a given area but is more indicative of population levels.[6]

This approach to tiger conservation relies on conservation of forests from both a prey and predator perspective. Karanth suggests that with such approaches, it is possible to preserve tigers in India and elsewhere.

Other work[edit]

Karanth has conducted groundbreaking research on the ecology of tigers and other large mammals. He pioneered radio-telemetry of tigers in India. He founded the Centre for Wildlife Studies, published more than 135 international peer-reviewed scientific papers and popular articles, and authored seven books in English and Kannada.

Karanth serves on the Government of India Forest Advisory Committee, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCBR) and Karnataka Government of Karnataka Tiger Conservation Foundation and Tiger Steering Committees. He is past Vice-President of the Bombay Natural History Society and a Scientific Advisor to several conservation advocacy groups in India. He is the Scientific Advisor to Wildlife First, a pro-active wildlife advocacy group and is prime mover in a WCS-funded multi-institutional initiative running a graduate program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at the National Centre for Biological Sciences at Bangalore. In 2008, Karanth was elected a member of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Karanth is a scientific fellow of the Zoological Society of London, and is on the editorial board of the journals Oryx and Journal of Applied Ecology. He also serves on the IUCN Species Survival Commission specialist groups on Cats, Elephants, Wild Cattle and Small Carnivores. Karanth has adjunct teaching faculty status at NCBS, Bangalore and at the Department of Wildlife Biology, University of Minnesota. He also supervises doctoral candidates at Manipal University, Karnataka.[3][4]

Karanth also works conservation policy issues and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict. Karanth has traveled widely to provide expert consultation to research/conservation projects in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Indonesia, Russia, and some countries in Africa and Latin America. His work has been featured in international media including Nature, The New York Times, National Geographic Channel, BBC, CNN and the Discovery Channel.[3]


Padma Shri award

In January, 2012, Karanth was conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award for his outstanding contributions to Wildlife Conservation and Environment Protection.[4]

In 2010, Karanth received the Karnataka Government’s Rajyothsava Award.

In 2007, Karanth won the $200,000 J. Paul Getty Award for Conservation Leadership.[7] Earlier winners include Salim Ali and Jane Goodall. Also in 2007, he won the Sanctuary Asia lifetime achievement award.

In 2006, Karanth received the Sierra Club International EarthCare award.



Karanth has published over 80 peer reviewed papers including in scientific journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Ecology, Journal of Applied Ecology, Ecological Applications, Journal of Animal Ecology, PLoS Genetics, Journal of Zoology, Journal of Tropical Ecology, Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, Oryx and scientific books published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge Press, Columbia University Press, Elsevier, Springer and Island Press. He has authored the books The Way of the Tiger (2001) and A view from the Machan (2006) and co-edited Monitoring Tigers and their Prey (2002) and Camera traps in Animal Ecology (2010). He has written over 50 popular articles in English as well as popular articles and 3 books in Kannada language. He serves on the editorial boards of Oryx and Journal of Applied Ecology. Some notable publications include:

  • Photographic sampling of elusive mammals in tropical forests (K U Karanth, J D Nichols, N S Kumar) 2004
  • Phylogeography and genetic ancestry of tigers (K U Karanth et al. in Public Library of Science Biology Journal) 2004
  • Estimation of tiger densities in the tropical dry forests of Panna, Central India, using photographic capture-recapture sampling (K U Karanth, Raghunandan, S Chundawat, J D Nichols, N S Kumar in Animal Conservation) 2004
  • Tigers and their prey: Predicting carnivore densities from prey abundance (K U Karanth, J D Nichols, N S Kumar, W A Link, J E Hines in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA) 2004
  • Human-carnivore conflict and perspectives on carnivore management worldwide (A Treves and K U Karanth in Conservation Biology) 2003
  • Human-carnivore conflict: local solutions with global applications (A Treves and K U Karanth in Conservation Biology) 2003
  • The Economics of Protecting Tiger Populations: Linking Household Behavior to Poaching and Prey Depletion (R Damania, R Stringer, K U Karanth, B Stith in Land Economics) 2003
  • Tiger ecology and conservation in the Indian subcontinent (in Journal of Bombay Natural History Society) 2003
  • Science deficiency in conservation practice: the monitoring of tiger populations in India (K U Karanth et al. in Animal Conservation) 2003
  • Estimation of large herbivore densities in the tropical forests of southern India using distance sampling (D Jathanna, K U Karanth, A J T Johnsingh in Journal of Zoological Society of London) 2003
  • Conservation and Society (in Conservation and Society) 2003
  • Nagarahole limits and opportunities in wildlife conservation (in Making Parks Work) 2002
  • Mitigating human-wildlife conflicts in southern Asia (K U Karanth, M D Madhusudhan in Making Parks Work) 2002
  • Local hunting and large mammals conservation in India (M D Madhusudhan, K U Karanth in Ambio) 2002
  • Behavioral correlates of predation by tiger, leopard and dhole in Nagarahole, India (K U Karanth and M E Sunquist in Journal of Zoology) 2000
  • Hunting for an answer: Local hunters and large mammal conservation in India (M D Madhusudhan, K U Karanth in Hunting for sustainability in tropical forests) 2000
  • Ecology, behavior and resilience of the tiger and its conservation needs (M E Sunquist, F C Sunquist, K U Karanth in Riding the Tiger) 1999
  • Counting tigers with confidence (in Riding the Tiger) 1999
  • An ecology based method for defining priorities for large mammal conservation : The tiger case study (K U Karanth et al. in Conservation Biology) 1998
  • Avoiding paper tigers and saving real tigers (K U Karanth, M D Madhusudhan in Conservation Biology) 1997
  • Prey selection by tiger, leopard and dhole in tropical forests (K U Karanth, M E Sunquist in Journal of Animal Ecology) 1995
  • Estimating tiger populations from camera-trap data using capture-recapture models (in Biological Conservation) 1995
  • Correcting for overdispersion of prey selectivity (W A Link, K U Karanth in Ecology) 1994
  • Conservation prospects for lion-tailed macaques in Karnataka (in Zoo Biology) 1992
  • Ecology and management of tiger in tropical Asia (in Wildlife Conservation: Present Trends and Perspectives for the 21st Century) 1991
  • Line transect method for censusing elephants in Nagarahole (in Censusing elephants in forests) 1991
  • Dry-zone afforestation and its impact on blackbuck populations (K U Karanth, M Singh in Conservation in developing countries: problems and prospects) 1990
  • Analysis of predator-prey balance in Bandipur Tiger Reserve with reference to census reports (in Journal of Bombay Natural History Society) 1988
  • Tigers in India: a critical review of field censuses (in Tigers of the world: The biology, biopolitics, management and conservation of an endangered species) 1987
  • Status of wildlife and habitat conservation in Karnataka (in Journal of Bombay Natural History Society) 1986
  • Ecological status of the liontailed macaque and its rainforest habitat in Karnataka (in Primate Conservation) 1985
  • Bhadra wildlife sanctuary and its endangered ecosystem (in Journal of Bombay Natural History Society) 1982


  • The Way of the Tiger (Hardcover and Paperback, the latter by Orient Longman)
  • View from the Machan - How Science Can Save The Fragile Predator (Orient Longman)[8]


  1. ^ Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty (2002-09-12). "Tailing man's most admired enemy...". The Hindu, Metro Plus Delhi. Delhi: Kasturi & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  2. ^ Verma, Varuna (24 February 2008). "'I was interested in saving the tiger. So I created enemies'". The Telegraph,. The Telegraph -- Calcutta. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e CWS. "Founder Trustee and Director : Dr K. Ullas Karanth". 1669, 31st Cross, 16th Main, Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bangalore – 560070: Centre for Wildlife Studies. Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  4. ^ a b c d e WCS (2012-01-26). "WCS's Dr. Ullas Karanth Wins India's Padma Shri Award". Hime, News and Features. 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10460: Wildlife Conservation Society. Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  5. ^ Dreifus, Claudia. "Interview". The New York Times, reprinted in International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  6. ^ Gubbi, Sanjay. "The tiger trail". The Hindu. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  8. ^ CWS. "Publications: Books and Products by CWS, Scientific Publications, Technical Reports and Dissertations". 1669, 31st Cross, 16th Main, Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bangalore – 560070: Centre for Wildlife Studies. Retrieved 2012-01-26. 

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