Indian Science for Indian Tigers?: Conservation Biology and the Question of Cultural Values

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Project Tiger was established in India in 1973-1974 to scientifically manage endangered species such as the Indian tiger. Indian scientists such as Dr. M. K. Ranjitsink and Dr. Salim Ali, and organizations like the Bombay Natural History Society, advocated a scientific approach to tiger management. However, the Indian government limited participation in the project to Government of India Foresters, rather than scientists. Thus limited scientific research was produced for the first fifteen years of the project. Lewis discusses the tensions between non-scientific concerns such as nationalism with a government's desire to control its lands and the concerns of foreign conservation biologists, such as Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley. He uses the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal as an example of foreign scientific control of a third world nation's nature preserves. Conservation biologists in India had different interests from the government and forestry workers which further exacerbated the tensions.


  • Ali, Sálim 1896-1987
  • Ranjitsinh, M. K. 1938-
  • Ripley, Sidney Dillon 1913-2001
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (India)
  • Project Tiger
  • Bombay Natural History Society


Smithsonian History Bibliography

Contained within

Journal of the History of Biology, Vol. 38 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Conservation biology
  • Cold War, 1945-1989
  • Ecology
  • Tigers
  • Biodiversity
  • Wildlife management
  • Biological diversity
  • Cold War


  • Barro Colorado Island (Panama)
  • India

Physical description

Number of pages: 22; Page numbers: 185-207

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