Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Whitley award for elephant conservation!

It gives me great pleasure and pride to blog about my cousin Dr. Prithiviraj (Pruthu) Fernando receiving a Whitley Award for his work!

Above: Pruthu receiving the award from Britain's Pricess Anne.

Pruthu's an amazing guy .. he's a medical doctor who's first love was always animals. I remember growing up he used to have snakes and all kinds of whacky animals as pets (much to his mother's chagrin). So after he finished his medical degree he went to the US and did a Ph.D. (in Univ. of Oregon) in animal genetics (something about scooping up elephant poop and figuring out what they had for lunch and what their favorite game was etc.). After his Ph.D. he spent a few years in Columbia as a postdoc and then came back and set up the Center for Conservation and Research. He along with his lovely wife Jenny (who's also a scientist in the center) are now the world's leading researchers in larger animal issues.

Pruthu received the award for his pioneering work on the human-elephant conflict - basically finding better ways for allowing us to co-exist. As he comments in the article, he credits the Sri Lankan people for letting the elephants survive for so long in such a small area, but at the same time we have a long way to go in finding viable ways forward for a sustainable relationship with the big guys. I've listened to him tons of times (often in between badminton games when he's killing me) go on passionately about why the common strategy of putting an electric fence simply doesn't work .. and his research done by tracking elephants by satellite transmitting collars prove that it doesn't. The work he does is incredibly cool and human .. not exactly like writing middleware :).

These awards are the crème de la crème of awards in the wildlife space. Congratulations Pruthu on being recognized so globally for your hard work!

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