Habitat fragmentation and loss are the most serious threats to biodiversity and ecological integrity. In this context, privately held land enclaves within the biologically rich Western Ghats of India have negative impacts on biodiversity, including within protected areas. These impacts include persecution of wildlife arising from negative human–wildlife interactions, and overgrazing, firewood collection and illegal hunting.
To address this issue, the Wildlife Conservation Society–India is using an innovative habitat consolidation project to facilitate the voluntary relinquishment of such privately owned land to the state government, for the specific purpose of amalgamating such land with adjacent protected areas. The compensation to the land owner is paid directly by Wildlife Conservation Society–India (WCS-India) on mutually agreed terms. This facilitates the consolidation and intactness of critical wildlife habitats while ensuring that people willing to sell (often so that they can avoid conflict with wildlife, or secure improved access to basic amenities, healthcare and markets) are able to get a fair market value for their property.
To increase support for this programme, the State Government of Karnataka has issued a Government Order that allows civil society organizations to raise funds, buy land in important biodiversity areas or critical corridor sites, and transfer the land to the government. Since 2004 (WCS-India) has purchased property from a total of 75 willing families in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Kudremukh National Park and Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. A total area of 137 acres (c. 55 ha) has been added to these protected areas.
During September 2019 (WCS-India) negotiated with a society that, as a private land owner, held 5.45 acres (c. 2.2 ha) inside the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. On 9 September the society relinquished their rights over this property to the Government of Karnataka. Eventually this land will become part of Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary.