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In Memoriam: Ajay Desai (1958- 20 Nov 2020), Conservation Legend

20th November 2020: It is with great sadness that we announce the death of eminent elephant biologist and wildlife conservationist Ajay Desai in Belgaum last night following a heart attack. He is survived by wife and two children.

Mr Ajay Desai completed his schooling in Belgaum and his post-graduation in Marine biology from Karnataka University. He started his career with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) as a researcher and went on to spend many years focusing on studying elephant herding and track formation across the Indian reserves of Mudumalai TR and Sri Lanka.

Ajay Desai, former Co-Chair IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group was a member of the Steering Committee of India’s Project Elephant (2005 – 2012), member of the Project Elephant Task Force in 2010, member of the Task Force set up by the Karnataka High Court to advise on the Conservation of Elephants, Management of Human – Elephant Conflict from 2011 – 2013 and was currently part of a Supreme Court-constituted committee to study and prepare a report on Sigur elephant corridor, Southern India. Apart from India, he has worked on elephants and other large mammal conservation and on training field officers in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. He has also been a consultant for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in several countries, United Nations (UN) / Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), Fauna & Flora International, various state Forest Departments and the Bombay Natural History Society. Till his last day, he worked as consultant for WWF-India. He was also a member of the Karnataka State Wildlife Advisory Board and IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

AsESG members deeply mourn his passing and express their deep and heartfelt condolences to the sorrowing family and joins in their prayers.


The Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) is a global network of specialists concerned with the study, monitoring, management, and conservation of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in its 13 range states