The Wildlife Association of South India (WASI) has been engaged in the service of conservation since 1972. In the early days, it pioneered the use of angling for conservation and research. It can be said that WASI introduced the concept of "catch and release" sport fishing into Karnataka and set up anti-poaching & angling camps along the Cauvery river, which were later professionalized and expanded by the Karnataka government at Galibore, Bheemshwari etc. For many years, WASI worked closely with the Forest & Fisheries departments to patrol, manage and conserve over 20 Kms of pristine ecosystem along the Cauvery river.
WASI has been particularly focused on the conservation of the Mahseer fish (Tiger of the river) as an apex species along with other endemic sub-species that are to be found only in the Cauvery and its tributaries. It had been observed that the numbers of Mahseer were rapidly declining due to poaching and destructive methods such as netting and dynamiting. Dynamiting indiscriminately destroys all aquatic life forms including fish fingerlings, thereby wiping out an entire ecosystem. WASI uses the funds generated from catch and release angling to work with local communities, hiring them as anti-poaching staff and working closely with the forest department to patrol critical stretches of the river. In the process, we have not only protected the Mahseer but a whole lot of other aquatic fauna including rare species like the otter, many varieties of terrapins and turtles, other species of fish and mugger crocodiles which also breed in this area in good numbers. These fish indirectly support a whole range of bird life like the migratory osprey, brown fish owl, grey headed fishing eagle, a variety of kingfishers, terns, egrets and many more bird species. The adjoining riverine forests are characterized by large Terminalia Arjuna trees that support mammals like elephants, deer, leopards, sloth bear, wild boar and the rare grizzled giant squirrel which can be spotted in these forests.
WASI has worked closely with government agencies such as the police and forest department to protect wildlife and our guards have apprehended many poachers, sometimes at significant risk to life and property. Our guards have been honored by the I G Forest Cell for the exemplary courage shown by them during joint efforts to nab poachers and for recovery of weapons and poaching equipment.
Over time WASI has expanded the scope of our activities to focus on research and the wider aspects of conservation. Our catch records dating back over decades have proven invaluable in comparing scientific data and our members currently engage with various scientific communities and conservation partners to identify, tag and conduct telemetric studies on various fish species in the river. We are also spearheading the efforts to identify the Humpback Mahseer (Orange Fin) as an endemic species in our waters and to get it the protection and regenerative assistance that it requires. We also collaborate on initiatives for conservation of related flora and fauna such as otters and elephants, that share a close bond with riverine ecosystems.