Environment: Web eco-warriors rally for habitat

A web-based conservation campaign helped save critical habitat in India. PHOTO COURTESY ECOLOGICAL INTERNET.

Nonprofit internet provider helps organize international conservation campaign to protect elephant movement corridors in India

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A loose-knit group of environmental warriors is claiming victory in a long-running battle to preserve important wildife habitat in India.

the Web-based conservation campaign puts a new twist on the old saying about thinking globally and acting locally. These days, with the click of a mouse, activists around the world can send an e-mail, make a donation to a cause or add their name to a petition, even if the cause is a long way from home.

In late November, the Indian government decided against locating a neutrino observatory nearathe Mudumulai Tiger Reserve in Southern India, after receiving more than 100,000 protest e-mails during 2009.

The area contains one of the largest contiguous forests in Asia and sustains India’s largest wild populations of Asian elephants and Bengal tigers. The government’s report confirmed allegations that the proposed research site was too close to the critical core tiger habitats in the Bandipur and Mudumalai Tiger reserves. The area is also an elephant corridor, allowing the animals to move from the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats and vice-versa. The Nilgiri area contains more than 20 percent of India’s vertebrate species and flowering plants, 15 percent of its butterflies, and numerous endangered species.

Indian environmental leaders said it was a rare victory for conservation efforts in India and credited the international internet campaign with influencing the government’s decision.

The conservation push was spearheaded by Ecological Internet, an IT provider focusing on environmental efforts. Based on the behind-the-scenes organizational efforts, conservation biologists and activists from 96 different countries helped fuel global public awareness of the issue. The campaign showed how a local cause can generate world-wide interest and support for conservation efforts. Ecological Internet’s mission is to use the power of the web to promote environmental sustainability.

“(We) have again demonstrated the importance of ecologically aware global citizens joining together to protest on the Internet in support of local conservation protests,” Ecological Internet president Dr. Glen Barry said in a press release.

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