Prof. Raman Sukumar


Centre for Ecological Sciences,

Email: rsuku@iisc.ac.in

Phone: +91-80-2293-3102


1977, University of Madras .


1979, University of Madras .


1985, Indian Institute of Science.

Positions held
  • Professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science (IISc.)(2003- present). Faculty since 1986 at the same Institute.
  • Associate Faculty, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, IISc. (2009-)
  • Adjunct Faculty, Columbia University (2001-present)
  • Fulbright Fellow, Princeton University (1991-92
Research and Conservation Experience

1975 – 1979 : Research on the flora and fauna of Guindy National Park, Madras I began my natural history pursuits in the ci ty of Madras by studying the ecology of this remnant jungle and contributed in a small way to its eventual recognition as a national park.

1980 – 1985 : Study of the ecology of Asian elephants and elephant-human conflicts in southern India This research was part of the Ph.D programme and focused on elephant-human conflicts in relation to the natural ecology of elephants in the Biligirirangan hills in southern India. It is recognized as not only a pioneering scientific study of wild Asian elephants but also as the first to address in depth the ecological basis of conflict between a large mammal and humans.

1985 – 1988 : Survey and design of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, southern IndiaCarried out field surveys and helped design the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a 5500 sq. km reserve that is the country’s first biosphere reserve. As part of this conservation programme I also formulated research programmes and set up an information system pertaining to the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve for the Department of Environment, Government of India. Several long-term research projects that interface with conservation and management were also set up, some of which are described below.

1988 – present: Monitoring the large mammal populations of Mudumalai Set up a long-term monitoring system using line transects of the population dynamics of large mammals in Mudumalai Sanctuary, a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. This includes a study of predation patterns of the dhole (Asiatic wild dog), assessing the population structure and numbers of herbivores (elephants, gaur, spotted deer and sambar) and modelling the dynamics of their interactions

1988 – present: Dynamics and management of tropical forests Beginning in 1988 a number of permanent plots have been set up in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve for long-term monitoring of the dynamics of forest communities in relation to climate, fire, impact of elephants and human disturbances. These plots monitor the fate of about 50,000 individual trees from about 300 species and is the largest and longest running programme of its kind in India. The Centre for Tropical Forest Science of the Smithsonian Institution is a collaborator in this work.

1988 – present: Monitoring ivory poaching and the dynamics of Asian elephant populations Long-term monitoring of the population dynamics of Asian elephant populations is being carried out at three sites (Mudumalai, Nagarahole, Periyar) in southern India including two within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, and the impact of ivory poaching is being assessed.

1999 – 2005 : Reconstructing past climate change in southern India The past climate and vegetation of the Nilgiri Hills, going back to the late Quaternary (about 40,000 years before present), has been studied through stable carbon and oxygen isotope analyses of peat bogs on the plateau.

1995 – present: Impact of future climate change on forests and biodiversity in India The potential impact of future climate change on forests in the India is being assessed through models integrating global and regional climate change projections with vegetation change models. The implications of such change during the 21st century for protected areas and wildlife conservation is also being assessed.

1993 – 1996 : Survey and conservation of elephants in Myanmar Over a three year period several surv eys were carried out of the extensive elephant habitats in the Pegu Yoma and Arakan Yoma range in Myanmar. These surveys provided some of the first objective estimates of the elephant population of the country. As a result of this work the country set up its first elephant sanctuary, the Gwa Elephant Sanctuary, in 1997.

2000 – 2001 : Survey and conservation of elephants in Cat Tien NP, Vietnam During 2000 training in field training methods was provided to staff of the Cat Tien National Park, and a detailed survey of the remnant elephant population of the park carried out during 2001 with a view to providing an action plan for its conservation.

1999 – 2005 : Molecular genetics and phylogeography of Asian elephant populations A comprehensive study of population genetic structure, variation and phylogeography of Asian elephant populations through extracting DNA from dung was carried out for Indian and Myanmar elephants. This study provided the much needed data for the two major populations of this species in order to derive the evolutionary relationships among Asian elephant populations across the continent.

2001 – present: Radio-telemetry and GPS monitoring of elephants in West Bengal, India A detailed study of elephant ecology is being carried out in the state of West Bengal that experiences one of the highest levels of elephant-human conflict in Asia. Under this study eleven elephants have been fitted with radio-collars to study their movement, use of corridors and patterns of conflict with human settlements across a fragmented landscape. The novelty of this study has been the first “satellite-collaring” of an elephant in the country; three elephants in 4 conflict with villagers now serve as pr ototypes for an internet-based “early warning” system for field managers of the movement of troublesome elephants.

2008 – present: Ecology and mitigation of wildlife-human conflicts I have been coordinating a multi-institutional and comprehensive research programme on wildlife-human conflicts under a joint Indo-Norwegian initiative. Aspects covered include the ecological and social dimensions of conflict of humans with several species of herbivores (elephant, blackbuck, nilgai, wild pig) and carnivores (leopard, wolf) across the country. The study will also make cross-cultural comparisons of wildlife-human conflicts in India and Norway.

Teaching, Training and Lectures

I have taught courses on Ecology and Conservation Biology for graduate students since 1986.

Have also undertaken training programmes for forest/wildlife department personnel from Asian countries including India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.

I have also spoken extensively on conservation issues relating to Asian elephants at venues around the world including:

Zoos & Zoological Societies:
San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Oakland Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, Syracuse Zoo, Bronx Zoo, National Zoo (DC), Philadelphia Zoo, Jacksonville Zoo, Riddle’s Elephant Sanctuary. Rotterdam Zoo, Emmen Zoo, Munster Zoo, Chester Zoo, Zoological Society of London, Melbourne Zoo.

University of California at San Diego, Davis and Be rkeley, Stanford University, Pasadena Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, Princeton University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Boston University, University of Massac husetts, University of Florida, University of Oxford, University College-London, Univ ersity of Zurich, University of Kiel, Yale University, University of Michigan

Congresses & Symposia:
Major international meetings/symposia in which I have made presentations include the Society for Conservation Biology, Association for Tropical Biology, International Congress of Ecology, International Congress of Mammalogy, Elephant Keeper’s Association of North America, and International Elephant Foundation.

Awards and Honours
  • National Science Talent Award, National Council for Educational Research and Training, 1973.
  • Presidential Award of the Chicago Zoological Society, 1991.
  • Order of the Golden Ark, The Netherlands, 1997.
  • Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, (elected in 2000).
  • Whitley Gold Award for International Nature Conservation, U.K., 2003.
  • TN Khoshoo Memorial Award for Conservation, India, 2004 (first recipient of this award).
  • Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (elected in 2005).
  • UGC National Swami Pranavananda Saraswati Award in Environmental Science and Ecology, 2006.
  • International Cosmos Prize, Japan, 2006.
  • Fellow, Geological Society of India (elected in 2006).
  • B.P. Pal National Environment Fellowship Award for Biodiversity, India, 2007.
  • Commendation by the Prime Minister for contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shared the Noble Peace Prize, 2007.
  • J.C. Bose National Fellow, Department of Science & Technology, India (2010-15).
  • Karuna Award for Contributions to National Development, Karuna Trust, Bangalore, 2010.
  • Taru Lalvani Award for Protection of the Environment, Rotary Club of Bombay (2011).
  • Doctor of Science (Honoris causa), Vidyasagar University, West Bengal, 2012.
Specialization :


  • Wildlife Ecology (Asian elephant ecology and management; Population dynamics; Wildlife-human conflicts)
  • Tropical forest ecology (Diversity, structure and dynamics of tropical forests; Conservation of tropical forests)
  • Climate change ( Reconstructing Quaternary climate change; Assessing impacts of future climate change on forests and biodiversity)
  1. Story of Asian Elephants
  2. Living Elephants
  3. Asian Elephants
  4. Elephants days and nights

    Selected Publications:

  1. Mani,S., Merino, A. García-Oliva, F. Riotte, J. and Sukumar, R. (2018). Soil properties and organic matter quality in relation to climate and vegetation in southern Indian tropical ecosystems. Soil Research 56: 80-90.
  2. Suresh, H.S. and Sukumar, R. (2018). Phenology of Ficus spp. in a tropical dry forest, Mudumalai, south India. Journal of Forest Research 29: 1129–1138.
  3. Chitra-Tarak, R., Ruiz, L., McMahon, S.M., Dattaraja, H.S., Kumar, M.S.M., Riotte, J., Suresh, H.S. and Sukumar, R. (2018). The roots of the drought: Hydrology and water uptake strategies mediate forest-wide demographic response to precipitation. Journal of Ecology 106: 1495–1507.
  4. Lutz et al including Sukumar, R. (2018). Global importance of large-diameter trees. Global Ecology and Biogeography 27: 849-864.
  5. Dattaraja, H.S., Pulla, S., Suresh, H.S., Nagaraja, M.S., Srinivasamurthy, C.A. and Sukumar, R. (2018). Woody-plant diversity in relation to environmental factors in a seasonally dry tropical forest landscape. Journal of Vegetation Science 29: 704-714.
  6. Alonso, A.A. and Sukumar, R. (2017). Why Tropical Conservation? In: Tropical Conservation: Perspectives on local and global priorities (Eds. A.A. Aguirre and R. Sukumar), Pp.3-6. Oxford University Press, New York.
  7. Ramaswami, G. and Sukumar, R. (2017). Invasive plants in the tropics and the case of Lantana camara. In: Tropical Conservation: Perspectives on local and global priorities (Eds. A.A. Aguirre and R. Sukumar), pp. 154-165 (Chapter 10). Oxford University Press, New York.
  8. Pulla, S., Suresh, H.S., Dattaraja, H.S. and Sukumar, R. (2017). Multi-dimensional tree niches in a tropical dry forest. Ecology 98: 1334-1348.
  9. Thekaekara, T., Vanak, A.T., Hiremath, A.J., Rai, N.D. Ratnam, J. and Sukumar, R. (2017). Notes from the Other Side of a Forest Fire. Economic & Political Weekly 52: 22-25.
  10. Sukumar, R., Varma, S., Tiwari, S.K. and Menon, V. (2017). Sustainable Landscapes and Corridors to Conserve Asian Elephants in India: Successes, Challenges, and Prospects. In: Tropical Conservation: Perspectives on local and global priorities (Eds. A.A. Aguirre and R. Sukumar), Pp.29-39. (Chapter 3). Oxford University Press, New York
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