CEPF ( Hot Spot Hero award )

Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot

Subbaiah Bharathidasan, co-founder and secretary, Arulagam, India

Subbaiah Bharathidasan was born in India and has been involved with the conservation movement since 1992. He started out as an environmental journalist, and later served as a renewable energy advocate and a technical adviser at a government botanical nursery. He has written several Tamil-language books about the environment, and he regularly contributes to wildlife and environmental magazines. He is also one of the founders and the current secretary of Arulagam, a nonprofit organization that seeks to conserve nature for the benefit of all living things.

With support from a series of CEPF grants dating back to 2009, Arulagam established a program to protect vultures in Tamil Nadu State. Vulture populations had fallen sharply due to use of diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory drug) by veterinarians and cattle owners. Vultures are exposed when they feed on carcasses of livestock treated with the drug. This has caused a 95 percent drop in populations across Indian vultures of the genus Gyps. To save the vultures, Arulagam is working to completely eliminate diclofenac from the birds’ food chain and take other steps to improve the status of vultures. The organization is accomplishing this by influencing policies that make the sale of diclofenac more difficult; withdrawing another harmful drug Ketoprofen from Tamil Nadu with the help of the Animal Husbandry Department; and raising awareness of the vulture-safe drug meloxicam as an alternative. Arulagam also is educating local communities about the importance of vultures to India’s ecosystems, and engaging local communities in identifying and protecting vulture nesting areas with the guidance of the Tamil Nadu State Forest Department.

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