New Delhi, 25 October 2017: The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a subsidiary of the RBS Group, today announced the winners of the RBS ‘Earth Heroes’ Awards for 2017. Eight individuals/institutions from the field of wildlife and conservation, who have demonstrated exemplary work on the ground, were chosen by an independent jury, for the RBS Earth Heroes Award. The jury panel, comprising of active wildlife enthusiasts, environmentalists and conservationists, reviewed nominations received from across the country. 

Mr. Pankaj Phatarphod, Managing Director Country Head of Services; India Chairperson – RBS Foundation India, said, “Earth Heroes Awards’ journey has truly been enriching for us at RBS, by giving us an opportunity to honour and encourage individuals and organizations who work towards environmental sustainability. This year as well, we have been fortunate enough to receive numerous nominations of such high calibre and have the privilege to celebrate and honour the best in the field for their respective efforts. This year’s awardees’ demonstrate how sheer dedication for their respective field can help make a positive change to the environment. We hope to serve as a source of inspiration for the youth of India, by encouraging the exemplary work done by the Earth Heroes” 

Mr. N Sunil Kumar, Head of Sustainability, India, Royal Bank of Scotland and Director, RBS Foundation India, said, “The unsung  heroes of the country who dedicate their lives, go beyond the call of duty to conserve our wild habitats  deserve to  be celebrated.  Forest carbon sink and biodiversity is an important Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) committed by India at the UN Climate platform (COP 21 of UNFCCC). The Earth Heroes work is a direct contribution to this NDC.  I am honoured to acknowledge their efforts towards conservation of our wildlife and habitats.  It is indeed a privilege for us to be hosting these awards each year.” 

The seventh edition of RBS Earth Heroes Awards saw Sumitra Mahajan, hand over award citations and cash prizes to the winners, at the awards ceremony in New Delhi.

The winners of the 2017 RBS ‘Earth Heroes’ Awards are:


Winner Award category


Jadav Payeng RBS Earth Hero’ Award


Valmiki Tiger Reserve RBS Earth Guardian’ Award


Mr. Khenrab Phuntsog and Mr. Smanla Tsering RBS ‘Save The Species’ Award


Mr. Atul Deokar RBS ‘Save The Species’ Award


Mr. Rohan Chakravarty RBS Inspire’ Award


Dr. Shekhar Niraj RBS Green Warrior’ Award


Mr. Ipra Mekola RBS Green Warrior’ Award


Mr. Chandrakant Naik RBS Green Warrior’ Award

RBS ‘Earth Hero’ Award (Felicitation)

This award recognizes extraordinary achievements of an individual who has worked a life time in conservation of wildlife, natural resource management, and environment and has influenced policy.

The RBS ‘Earth Hero’ Award was conferred upon Mr. Jadav Payeng for his outstanding achievements and his passionate engagement in environment and wildlife conservation.

Mr. Jadav Payeng, popularly known as the ‘Forest Man of India’ is one of the most inspiring stories of our time. 31 years ago, the Assam Forest Department started out a project to plant life on the tough terrain of the eroded island covered with sand and silt. Jadav Payeng was a part of the project and continued even after the project ended. Shri Payeng, through his continuous effort over decades, succeeded in turning a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra into a forest reserve by planting trees. The forest, called the ‘Molai’ forest after him is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, Assam, India, and encompasses an area of about 1,360 hectares.

Amongst several other esteemed recognitions and awards, ‘The Forest Man of India’ was also a recipient of RBS ‘Green Warrior’ Award in 2013. Shri Payeng was honoured with the fourth highest civilian award in India, the ‘Padma Shri’, in 2015.

II. RBS ‘Earth Guardian’ Award

This award recognizes an institution (NGO/Corporate/Government) that has made exceptional contributions in the field of conservation of wildlife, human life and property in wild habitats, natural resource management, environment, wildlife research and awareness building.

The RBS ‘Earth Guardian’ Award was presented to Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), based in the West Champaran district of Bihar, to acknowledge their heroic efforts of improving management practices for grassland and habitat management, wildlife monitoring, ecotourism and effective wildlife crime control.

VTR occupies 901.07 sq km of about 3500 sq km contiguous trans-boundary tiger conservation landscape across the Indo-Nepal border and along with the tiger, its flagship species, VTR also contains Leopard, Wild dog, Gaur, Hog deer, Himalayan serow, Hoary bellied squirrel and vultures in the forested landscape, and Indian Gharial, Marsh crocodiles and Gangetic dolphins, amongst others.

VTR has used a plethora of strategies simultaneously for a comprehensive upward push in its status. This includes management and maintenance of grassland habitats; timely financial resources; winning political support; a scientific approach in management and protection, partnership with civil society organizations; working with the paramilitary border forces; and promoting eco-tourism.

III. & IV. RBS ‘Save The Species’ Award – 2 individuals

This award recognizes an individual or institution that has been involved, directly or indirectly, in protecting any endangered species and has also contributed to education, awareness programs, capacity building and resolving man-animal conflict.

The RBS ‘Save The Species’ Award was presented to two nominees – Mr. Atul Deokar for his work in conserving the Wild Buffalo, White-rumped, Indian Vultures & the Indian Giant Squirrel. The other recipient of the award is Mr. Khenrab Phuntsog & Mr. Smanla Tsering for their sustained efforts for the conservation of the Snow Leopard and the Hemis National Park ecosystem.

Mr. Atul Deokar, at the young age of 31 years, worked with the liberated local communities to conserve the Wild Buffalo, White-rumped, Indian Vultures and the Indian Giant Squirrel, in his capacity as a Deputy Range office. He was instrumental in establishing the Eco-Development committees in villages to focus on water conservation and critical conservation of the wild buffalo population. Deokar has identified and photographed rare butterflies and added three new species to the checklist in central India. Presently posted at the East Pench Range of the Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, Deokar works tirelessly to restore the lost wild.

Mr. Khenrab Phuntsog & Mr. Smanla Tsering, spent 17 years in the field, Khenrab Phuntsog and Smanla Tsering remain responsible for the management of the 3350 sq km Hemis National Park in Ladakh. The duo undertook momentous projects to ensure that both the Snow Leopard and the ecosystem were well conserved. They introduced numerous concepts like home stay and developed projects to study the national park, thereby ensuring preservation of the habitat as a whole. Phuntsog and Tsering are constantly on the lookout for new initiatives and ideas to promote conservation of flora and fauna of Markha Valley at the grassroots level by involving and educating the mass local population of the region in awareness programmes. Their work has been an inspiration for all the trekkers on snow leopard trips and the wildlife conservation community for their constant efforts in preserving the HNP ecosystem.

V. RBS ‘Inspire’ Award – Individual or Institutional

This award recognizes an individual (journalist/filmmaker/artist) who has inspired action on conservation of wildlife, natural resource management and environmental protection through his/her creative expression.

The RBS ‘Inspire’ Award was presented to Rohan Chakravarty for his witty, yet sensitive take on wildlife conservation.

A dentist turned wildlife cartoonist, he, believes that when one talks of wildlife conservation, the focus is on tiger and elephants, while the lesser known creatures are left out. The difficult task of bringing the lesser known to people’s attention was achieved by his creative humor and comic illustrations through Green Humor. Rohan’s comic strips raise issues of sustainable design, carbon footprints and climate change. These cartoon strips have been published in different media including newspapers and wildlife magazines.

Courageously quitting a stable career in dentistry to plunge into the uncertain world of making a living from cartoons, he first financed his passion through a day-job in animation, finally becoming a fulltime wildlife cartoonist in 2014. His passion of wildlife conservation and an extraordinary skill of portraying the current wildlife issues with graphics and humour is an inspiration today for all the budding artists and conversationalists.

VI., VII. & VII RBS ‘Green Warrior’ Award – 3 individuals

This award recognizes three individuals who have done commendable work in conservation of wildlife, natural resource management, environment protection, human lives and property.

For the RBS ‘Green Warrior’ Awards three winners were identified, Dr. Shekhar Kumar Niraj, an Indian Forest Services Officer and the Head of TRAFFIC India for his life-long dedication to wildlife management and biodiversity conservation, with a strong focus on fighting wildlife crime, Mr. Ipra Mekola, who has actively spent 17 years defending the wildlife Conservation in Mishimi Hills in Arunachal Pradesh and Mr. Chandrakant Naik, a decorated Forest Officer whose life time effort significantly contributed to the recovery of Kali Tiger Reserve, which has a sizable population of tigers in the state of Karnataka.

Dr. Shekhar Kumar Niraj is currently the head of TRAFFIC India and has gained extensive experience in the field working in protected areas with the Indian Forest Service, contributing to combating wildlife trade and poaching on a large scale. Dr. Niraj collaborates with the local people, residing in the adjacent areas surrounding the forests; since, he believes that conserving species is not merely limited to ecological services, but it includes the economic value of the area, and therefore, contributing to the overall well-being of adjacent communities. Shortly after taking over his position as the head of TRAFFIC India, Dr. Niraj joined forces with INTERPOL, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), and the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) to develop South Asia’s first integrated wildlife law enforcement strategy in India. Despite life threatening calls and extensive work stress he has still continues this waging war against poaching and wildlife crimes.

Mr. Ipra Mekola has pioneered the formation of the Biodiversity Management Committee of Mekola and People’s Biodiversity Register of Gimbo village. As a member of the State Wildlife Advisory Board and Honorary Wildlife Warden, Lower Dibang Valley, Arunachal Pradesh and the Head of Mekola clan, Idu-Mishmi tribe, he has actively spent 17 years defending the wildlife Conservation in Mishimi Hills in Arunachal Pradesh. In an effort to conserve areas, he plans on declaring the land of Mekola clan as Community Conserved Area.

His most prominent contributions revolve around environmental education, anti-poaching, rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals, awareness and trainings on livelihood for tribal communities. While being responsible for uncovering the Chinese poachers, active in the Kayala Pass area near Indo-China border in 2000, The ‘Broom Grass Cultivation’ program for local women was a success owing to him. Mr. Mekola has been recognized by various platforms for his initiative of declaring Community Conserved Area and initiating livelihood for local people through eco-tourism activities

Mr. Chandrakant Naik, currently working as the Deputy Range Officer in the Karnataka Forest Dept, he has played a crucial role in safeguarding the Kali Tiger Reserve and its tigers. During his service in Kulgi and Kumbarwada Wildlife Ranges of Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, Naik has tirelessly confronted the poaching and timber mafia. He has arrested poachers, smugglers, trespassers and forest encroachers in many Forest Offence Cases. He also helped the forest department in busting the Bull Frog Smuggling Racket in Uttara Kannada District two years ago.

In spite of receiving many life threats and being critically injured in order to stop poaching, smuggling and encroachment in the region, he has maintained an excellent rapport with the local community and was involved in ensuring their well-being. Several poachers and timber harvesters have changed their profession motivated by his outreach activities during his tenure in Kulgi Range.