On the Edge Grantee

Conserving Biodiversity Beyond Protected Areas in the Western Ghats

Kottigehar Dancing Frog
  • Country: India

  • Grantee: Nature Conservation Foundation 

  • Year: 2021 – ongoing 

  • Species: Multiple

  • Challenge: Habitat loss, intensification of agriculture and climate change


The Western Ghats (WG) is a mountain range that runs for 1,000 miles (1,600km) along the western edge of India. It’s one of the ‘hottest’ biodiversity hotspots in the world. Roughly 252 amphibian, 193 reptile, 179 mammal, and 508 bird species make the region their home. Of these, ​​​​117 species are listed as Threatened by the IUCN, and 80 are recognized as Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE).

More than 80% of the natural vegetation has been lost since the early 1900s. Just 10% of what’s left in the WG is formally set aside for conservation. This isn’t enough to conserve the region’s unique biodiversity. The geographical ranges of Asian Elephants and many amphibians and reptiles lie beyond protected areas in cultivated plantations, gardens, and fields – even across roads.

These human-modified landscapes need innovative conservation programs that foster biodiversity-friendly ways of using land and peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife. This is especially important given the ongoing loss of habitat and impacts of intensifying agriculture and climate change that are affecting many WG species.

The project

This grant supports an expansion of Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF)’s work from southern Western Ghats to central and northern areas. Over three years, NCF fieldworkers will undertake activities to develop their knowledge of EDGE species and other understudied biodiverse groups. NCF will also forge new partnerships to facilitate conservation and habitat restoration beyond what is currently protected.

Activities will include:

  • EDGE species beyond protected areas. Biodiversity surveys; habitat quality assessments; soundscape monitoring, call recording and the development of a computer app for monitoring amphibians.

  • Restoring natural ecosystems. The establishment of native plant nurseries and partnerships to extend ecological restoration and areas where native species are grown; field experiments and trials.

  • Partnerships and knowledge sharing. Creating a network of restoration practitioners and scientists; training workshops; using different media to communicate about EDGE species with the community.

Achievements so far: 

  • Fieldwork is underway in the northern WG over an area of 9,000² miles (15,000² km). So far, the team has detected 145 bird species, including the EDGE-listed Great Hornbill and Nilgiri Wood-pigeon. They have also seen lizards and skinks.

  • Conversations with potential restoration partners are underway in the northern and central WG. NCF has established a rainforest nursery stocked with around 2,000 seedlings of 20 native species (central WG). It is also finalizing a 12-acre (5-hectare) restoration intervention in northern WG.

  • Street plays aimed at increasing tolerance towards elephants have been performed and well-received in southern WG. Alongside this, forest department staff, land managers, and residents have taken part in activities intended to improve safety and reduce human-elephant conflict in central and southern WG.

  • 750 new subscribers have signed up for SMS elephant location alerts following street announcements in central WG.