How Born Free is helping protect vultures, otters and pangolins in India

Whilst tigers are often in the spotlight, the incredible Satpuda Landscape Tiger Partnership also protects a whole host of lesser known, but equally important, species.

Vultures (c) BAAVAN Team

Vultures (c) BAAVAN Team

The Satpuda Landscape Tiger Partnership (SLTP), founded by Born Free in 2004, has been undertaking conservation initiatives to protect the forests and wildlife of central India – one of the world’s most important tiger landscapes – for the past 20 years.

Whilst tigers have often been the focus of much of this work, through protecting tiger habitat, the partners of SLTP have indirectly helped protect many lesser known but equally important species that live alongside tigers.

Several partners undertake specific projects for conserving these species, from vultures and otters, to the most trafficked mammal on the planet: pangolins.


Tragically, vulture populations – vital scavengers who clear up carcasses and help prevent disease and keep ecosystems healthy – are plummeting across the country, due to poisoning, and ingesting pesticides and medications for livestock (such as diclofenac) which can be lethal to vultures. SLTP partner Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has been managing Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres (VCBC) across the country in partnership with local governments, where more than 750 birds have been bred successfully in captivity since 2004. Early this year, 20 Critically Endangered vultures were released by BNHS in central Indian tiger reserves as a part of this collaborative initiative to save the vultures from looming extinction. To ensure the benefits of the project are felt by local communities, BNHS teams are also conducting community engagement and awareness programmes for cattle owners and villagers around the vulture nesting colonies to sensitize them.

Separately, in Panna Tiger Reserve, situated in the northern part of the central Indian landscape, SLTP partner Baavan has been undertaking bird surveys with vultures being one of the focus species. In 2023, 56 Endangered white-rumped vultures were observed by the team. The aim is to replicate the surveys in the tiger forest outside the protected areas, which will go a long way in understanding the impact of protection and conservation measures on bird communities.


SLTP partner the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) works in central India to monitor pangolins – who also play a vital role, this time in helping regulate insect populations and moving nutrients around in the soil when digging for termites – who are sadly the most trafficked mammal in the world. As a part of this programme, pangolins rescued from the illegal wildlife trade are rehabilitated in Pench and Satpura Tiger Reserve. It is heartening to hear that pangolins have started to reproduce in these reserves. In addition, WCT trains the forest staff in pangolin ecology to ensure the pangolins they rescue have a greater chance of surviving.


WCT Team Scaling-Up Pangolin Conservation in India (c) WCT

WCT Team Scaling-Up Pangolin Conservation in India (c) WCT


Earlier this year, there was more good news from the WCT team, when for the first time, Eurasian otters were recorded in the state of Maharashtra in central India. The discovery results from their joint study conducted with Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra) authorities.

As their name suggests, the historic range of the Eurasian otter is vast, extending from Ireland to Japan, and from the artic to northern Africa. Having disappeared from much of their historic range, Eurasian otters now occur in very low densities, and their presence signals a healthy ecosystem. The team has been collaborating with local forest departments to initiate a long-term study on this species and forest hydrology to develop effective conservation strategies for the species and its habitat.

There is much to celebrate, not just for tigers, but for otters, pangolins, vultures and many other lesser known species throughout the Satpuda Landscape. We are grateful to all our supporters of SLTP – your contributions go a long way in enabling all the partners of the SLTP Network to conserve the forests of central India and all the wonderful species that call these forests their home.

Find out more about the work of SLTP here