The history of ANET can be traced back to pioneering herpetological survey trips made by Zahida (Zai) Whitaker and Romulus (Rom) Whitaker in the mid 1970s. In addition to snakes and crocodiles, they also documented the rising threats of unregulated hunting and logging in these islands. Through these travels they met people pivotal to ANET's development, including Fred and Jean Burns, Gerry Vaughan, Dennis Beale, George Alley and Gilda Alley. Through their support and their introductions to the Karen community, researchers from MCBT including (but not limited to) Romulus Whitaker, Satish Bhaskar, Allen Vaughan and Harry Andrews initiated island wide surveys for snakes, sea turtles and saltwater crocodiles.
In 1990, Zafar Futehally (Zai’s father), Zai Whitaker & Rom Whitaker registered ANET as Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Trust and the original office was located near the ghumai in Wandoor - 2km from our present location. In 1993, ANET projects were moved under the administrative wing of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT), changing the name to Andaman Nicobar Environment Team. In 1993, MCBT bought the current 2 hectare property and ANET grew in leaps and bounds thanks to the contribution of the researchers, educators, karen and ranchi community members. In addition to herpetological work, ANET took on forest restoration, environmental education and coral reef research projects, establishing a local and island-wide presence.
The disastrous tsunami of December 2004, wrought havoc across the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. It destroyed ANET's Leatherback monitoring camp in Great Nicobar, taking away our beloved researcher - Dr. Ambika Tripathy. You can read more about that incident and the miraculous survival of ANET staff member, Saw Watha, in this edition of Current Conservation. ANET spent more than a year on the ground, providing linkages to government and newly arrived non-governmental agencies, helping the communities recoup. While a lot of damage was caused by the tsunami of aid that arrived with good intention, ANET helped communities rebuild their lives by donating locally manufactured dugout dinghies, and refabricating indigenous tools to carve traditional canoes and rebuild their houses on their own designs, while slowly rebuilding its own research programmes.
Post-tsunami, ANET saw the growth of formal long-term terrestrial and marine monitoring programmes. ANET expanded its capacity to SCUBA education by briefly partnering with Lacadives, a leading dive institution in the country. In 2011, MCBT created formal collaborations with the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) and Dakshin Foundation to strengthen research and education programmes at ANET. By mid 2014, ANET established an in-house research dive unit, limiting its dive operations to scientific diving. Today ANET is managed through a joint partnership between Dakshin Foundation and MCBT.