From Primates to Predators: The Conservation of India’s Iconic Mammals

Course Description: India has gained a reputation for hosting one of the most burgeoning human populations on the planet. Within it, however, live an incredible range of organisms, from endangered lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) to Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris). Interactions between humans and wildlife in India are emblematic of human-wildlife conflicts that are on the rise the world over. How does India balance the conservation of wildlife with the happiness and safety of its people?

This course begins by exploring the ecological interdependencies of wildlife within the rich ecosystems of the Western Ghats. We will learn to observe and track these animals in the wild, mastering biodiversity monitoring techniques, while exploring the demands each mammal makes on their environment.W e will discuss the community food web, the role each iconic taxon plays within the web, and the disturbances and threats faced by this ecosystem. Then, we will utilise primates as a classic example of animals that have mastered the ability to live among human populations, while contrasting them to other iconic large mammals who face distinctive difficulties in doing the same. Finally, we will examine the unique challenge India faces in accommodating its people and wildlife in this small and yet incredibly fertile subcontinent.

Throughout, the field course will provide hands-on training in methods that are broadly applicable to mammalian field research, including but not limited to, forest navigation, biodiversity monitoring, radio telemetry, plant identification, tree-climbing and camera-trapping. At each stage of the course, instructors will stress the impacts that humans can have on this habitat, highlight current human-wildlife conflicts in the area, and discuss a range of solutions proposed to mitigate these conflicts.

The course takes place at Fringe Ford, a privately protected valley of natural forest tucked away in one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, the Western Ghats.

Course Dates: December 31, 2017 to January 13, 2018

Credit Options: Course available for 3 credits from Washington University in Saint Louis

Course Highlights: Explore the transition from city to jungle in a picturesque drive from Bangalore city to the field station via Karnataka’s iconic ancient capital city of Mysore. Explore local perspectives on wildlife with a visit to India’s oldest zoo, the Mysore Zoo.

Drive through Nagarhole National Park, viewing wildlife in a natural setting, and live at a field station that directly abuts protected land. Enjoy views of gaur, elephants, cats, and 40+ bird species directly from camp.

Enjoy a boat cruise among the myriad migrants and endemic avifauna of Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

Map out and explore the community food web in the area and find solutions to several disturbance scenarios as a final field project.

Conduct a ten-day biodiversity survey to add to the continuous field data collected at the site – your data will have a direct impact on the future of this field site and its preservation as a privately owned conservation concession.

Investigate recent instances of human-wildlife conflict in the area over the last two years to get real-world perspectives on the efficacy of various strategies to maintain the harmonious coexistence of megafauna in one of the most human-dense places on earth.

Course Topics: This course will provide you with basic field skills as well as in-depth exposure to the conservation and ecology of the diverse wildlife and habitats of India. These include:

-Forest navigation and orienteering, on and off trail
-Maintenance of an up-to-date field journal
-Identification of common wildlife species
-Upkeep of detailed and accurate wildlife sightings lists
-Mammalian natural history and evolution
-Mammalian diversity and conservation
-In-depth views into the iconic mammals of the area
-Ecosystem services and the community food web for mammals
-Mammalian, avian, and herpetofaunal survey methods
-A news-based investigative approach to documenting human-wildlife conflicts in the area

Qualifications: There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:

-You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.

-You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.

-We have no citizenship requirements. Anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas independently if necessary.

-You do not need any training in biology – our course is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.

-Courses have a maximum capacity of 12 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.

Special Note: Two spots in the course are reserved for Indian Citizens residing in India and will be provided on a first-come first-serve basis. The cost for attending the course is Rs. 50,000, and includes everything in the list below. To qualify for this fee please email us at immediately and do not apply directly.

The fee for this course for all other students is $2700 and includes the following:

-Food and lodging for the entire course.
-Round-trip travel to Fringe Ford field station via Mysore from Bangalore.
-Experienced instructors and field equipment.

This course fee does NOT include:

-International travel to and from Bangalore, India.
-Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for course attendance).
-Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this course).

Financial Assistance: There are two ways to obtain financial assistance for attending this field course. You may participate in both of these programs simultaneously as follows:

Scholarships: This year, we are offering two scholarships to attend this course, one targeting an Indian citizen and the other open to applicants of other nationalities. For the application details please visit our scholarships page (

Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowd funding platform for all field course students. You will be able to make your own fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final course payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the course at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a course, first, and then contact us at to set up your fundraising page.

Course Dates: December 31, 2017 to January 13, 2018