The Wildlife Association of South India (WASI) is a registered society dedicated to conserving the Cauvery Mahseer (Tor remadevii, aka Humpback Mahseer) as an apex species in the Cauvery river. In the process we extend protection to the entire river ecosystem. This includes several threatened species like the otter, terrapins and turtles, other species of fish and mugger crocodiles which also breed in this area. The aquatic life in turn supports a whole range of bird life like the migratory osprey, brown fish owl, grey headed fishing eagle, a variety of kingfishers, terns, egrets etc. The adjoining riverine forests are characterized by large Terminalia Arjuna trees that support mammals like elephants, deer, leopard, sloth bear and the rare grizzled giant squirrel.
Our initial history consisted of extensive field work to protect the river and conducting anti-poaching activities in co-ordination with the Forest Department, Jungle Lodges & Resorts, Karnataka Fisheries Department and local communities. Over time, we adopted science and research as a vital conservation tool and have been engaged with critical research projects aimed at establishing taxonomy, habitat studies, conservation recommendations and a species recovery programme. In almost 50 years of working on the Cauvery river, we have seen significant changes, including a major decline in the population of the endemic Humpback Mahseer, aka Tor Remadevii, which is the largest Mahseer species found worldwide.
Our conservation work is currently organized along two streams of activities.
- Protection and Habitat Management
WASI pioneered the model of protecting critical Mahseer habitat by introducing the concept of "catch and release" sustainable sport fishing into Karnataka. We undertook intensive patrolling and regular habitat protection of leased stretches by working closely with local communities. We also set up anti-poaching & angling camps along the Cauvery river, which were later professionalized and expanded by the Karnataka government at Galibore, Bheemshwari etc. Our anti-poaching work helped prevent destructive practices like indiscriminate gill netting, poisoning & poaching which destroys all aquatic life forms, including fish fingerlings. This was self funded by licensing strictly monitored "catch and release angling" and ploughing all the proceeds back into conservation. WASI continues to protect 3 stretches of the Cauvery river near Shimsha using the same protection model, outside the PA boundaries.
- Research and Conservation
WASI currently has multi year research permits from relevant government departments in South India to carry out Mahseer focused research on the Cauvery river. We also collaborate with highly credible scientific organizations and conservation partners for our efforts.
In particular, we are keen to establish the Humpback Mahseer as a flagship species in the Cauvery river and to gain support for a long term Conservation Action Plan. Starting with establishing the current status of the species, followed by recommendations for rehabilitation, recruitment and habitat management. Our field work has helped us gather a wealth of genetic and morphological data, which is currently being analysed in collaboration with reputed scientific bodies. Our catch records dating back over decades have proven invaluable in comparing scientific data and our members continue to be engaged with field work such as tagging, telemetric studies and regenerative programmes. 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.