Dr. Shekhar Kumar Niraj
A life-long dedication to wildlife management and biodiversity conservation, with a strong focus on fighting wildlife crime, characterizes Dr. Shekhar Niraj as one of South Asia’s most visible and respected conservation leaders.
Currently the Head of TRAFFIC India, Dr. Niraj gained extensive experience in the field working in protected areas with the Indian Forest Service, contributing to combating wildlife trade and poaching on a large scale. Before joining TRAFFIC– the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network of IUCN and WWF – he was responsible for the management of different terrestrial and marine protected areas, including the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve.
He was awarded the International Wildlife Foundation Award at the University of Arizona, USA in 2007, where he undertook his PhD research on the impacts of sustainable development on illegal wildlife trade and poaching.
Dr. Niraj’s work has focused on fighting wildlife crime while working with local communities in consideration of their livelihoods and needs. Collaborating with local peoples in India, he concluded that conserving species increased not only ecological services, but also the economic value of the area, contributing to the overall well-being of adjacent communities as well. While a lot of his work has concentrated on on-the-ground elimination of wildlife crime, he is strongly aware of the global picture and the necessity of collaboration. “Whether at the local, regional or global level, the efforts to eliminate wildlife crimes need to be assisted collectively with our trained skills, scientific knowledge, and improved resources,” says Dr. Niraj.
The South Asia region has experienced an increase in wildlife crime in recent years, and Dr. Niraj has worked tirelessly to take on the growing number of syndicates which are taking over illegal wildlife poaching and trade in India. Under pressure and even threats to his life, he has continued to take on the illegal networks in his new role at TRAFFIC. Shortly after taking over his position, Dr. Niraj joined forces with INTERPOL, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), and the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) to develop South Asia’s first integrated wildlife law enforcement strategy in India. Part of India’s strategy will be to appeal to strengthen global action and responsibility. Earlier this year, he told WWF India, “A concentrated global response, and empowering the South Asian region to act, is the only way that the menace of illegal wildlife trade can be dealt with.”