“Our team erupted in cheers when we heard the news that Karma had won this award,” said Marissa Niranjan, SLT Deputy Director. “Karma Sonam is currently a field manager for Nature Conservation Foundation, our partner organization in India. It’s inspiring how far his passion and dedication have brought him.”
Karma hails from the small, remote village of Rumptse in the Eastern part of Ladakh. A man of humble origins, Karma had to give up formal education at an early age to attend to other responsibilities. Nearly two decades ago he had the opportunity to assist a local researcher studying argali in the pastures around his village. This chance opportunity changed his life. It ignited such a passion he started pursuing it full-time. Now, having worked in Eastern Ladakh for almost 15 years, Karma has contributed to community conservation in more than 17 villages throughout the vast landscape.
This year, Karma was recognized for these extraordinary efforts by The NatWest Group of India at their award ceremony. One of only eight recipients, Karma was presented with one of the prestigious Earth Heroes Inspire Awards, recognizing extraordinary individuals and institutions whose efforts have left a significant mark on wildlife and habitat conservation.
“This award is a due acknowledgment of his efforts for which he has dedicated the past 15 years, congratulations to Karma Sonam!” Ajay Bijoor, Assistant Conservation Program Head.
In his capacity as a field manager, Karma helps mitigate negative interactions between herders and wildlife in Rong Valley and areas of the Changthang region in Ladakh. He champions our community-based livestock insurance program and the predator-proofing of corrals which have helped compensate and minimize losses due to predation. Karma has worked tirelessly to set up and manage Grazing-free Wildlife Reserves – areas designated by the community as livestock-free to help increase the population of important wild ungulate species like the Tibetan Argali, Ladakh Urial, Bharal and even the rare Tibetan Gazelle.
Karma Sonam has also been instrumental in another predator conservation initiative where Shandongs, the traditional wolf traps used to capture and kill wolves, are shut down and a Buddhist Stupa is built next to it. This collaborative venture reaffirms the community’s commitment to a peaceful existence with wildlife.
Karma’s strong dedication to conservation stems from his love for nature and wildlife and his work over the years has inspired communities including more than 3,000 kids and youth.
‘Our aim is that the community’s livelihood stays sustainable and that humans and wildlife co-exist peacefully and harmoniously’, said Karma.