Murthy Kantimahanti (India, 33 years old) is a conservation biologist. His fascination for conservation starts in 2000 when he started working at the Indira Ghandi Zoological Park. From 2014 until now he works as a biologist in the Eastern Ghats, a large mountain system extending from central India to the far south of India. Becoming the founder of the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS), his current efforts focus on community-based initiatives to conserve the snake fauna, with the iconic King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) in particular.
King Cobra populations are declining due to habitat loss and poaching and are categorized as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN. This project aims to conserve the last remaining King Cobra populations in the Eastern Ghats with a community-based initiative that involves research and outreach programs.
The Future for Nature Award will be used to intensively train the local village youth on issues pertaining to venomous/non-venomous snake identification, snake bites and first aid, with the intention to develop a network of citizen scientists through structured training programs and workshops within the local communities. Field assistants from the local communities will be involved on part-time basis to engage in conservation activities and snake bite management practices. A first ever Snake Education Center will be established in the Eastern Ghats using the funds. As the project progresses, the EGWS will also explore any income generation practices to improve rural livelihoods of the local communities in the North Eastern Ghats.