About | History of ANET
ANET as an establishment, officially set up in 1993, has an interesting history and as it has grown over the years,
its goals have expanded.
Alok Mallick, who led several of the initial efforts was also responsible for ANET’s first forays into SCUBA diving and in-water work in coral reef and seagrass ecosystems. In 1993, this establishment and its projects were formally brought under the administration of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT), as the Andaman Nicobar Environment Team.
The idea of ANET was born out of a series of pioneering herpetological surveys carried out in the mid 1970s by Zahida (Zai) and Romulus (Rom) Whitaker, and other members of the Madras Crocodile Bank. Although these surveys primarily targeted crocodiles, snakes and turtles, the team also observed and documented a number of rising threats including unregulated hunting, logging and other forms of resource extraction in these islands. During their travels, they also met a number of individuals in the islands including Fred and Jean Burns, Gerry Vaughan, Dennis Beale, George and Gilda Alley, who supported them in their work.
In the late eighties and early nineties, following up on the plans to establish a base in the islands, Zafar Futehally (Zai’s father), Zai Whitaker & Rom Whitaker and Alok Mallick established a small office and facility near the ghumai in Wandoor village, 2km from our present location. During this period, a number of projects were initiated by MCBT staff as well as affiliates from other institutions such as the Salim Ali School of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University, Development Alternatives, etc. Alok Mallick, who led several of the initial efforts was also responsible for ANET’s first forays into SCUBA diving and in-water work in coral reef and seagrass ecosystems. In 1993, this establishment and its projects were formally brought under the administration of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT), as the Andaman Nicobar Environment Team. In 1993, MCBT bought the current 2 hectare property with grants from Conservation International and the Royal Netherlands Embassy. The team grew under the leadership of Harry Andrews who brought together environmental 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. What was initially intended to be called ‘A-NET’ began to be recognised throughout the length and breadth of the islands as /əˈnɛt/ (as in the name Annette). This brand name still persists. The field base itself was reforested with the foresight of ANET’s initial architects such as Alok Mallick (who established the first local species nursery) and the able assistance of many employees and well-wishers including Manish Chandi, Saw John Aung Thong and Mrinal Kant Bhowmik (Montu), who continue their associations with the organisation.
Nipa palm, a culturally indispensable species for the local community (a number of rituals and traditional practices were contingent on its availability) was largely lost from the southern and central Nicobars as a result of the tsunami. Manish and his team has been sourcing seed from the Andamans to restore populations in the Nicobars.
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami wrought havoc across the islands. Great Nicobar is located less than 200 km away from the northern tip of Sumatra, and Galathea our long-term leatherback monitoring camp was one of the first places outside Sumatra to be destroyed. ANET lost Dr. Ambika Tripathy, a post-doctoral researcher who had aimed to spend his first field season in the famed turtle camp. Though several lives were lost, Saw Watha (Agu), ANET’s veteran staff member of several field seasons, miraculously survived this ordeal (read his story here). Agu continues to work for ANET. ANET assisted with the rescue and rehabilitation efforts and helped communities rebuild their lives.
After the tsunami, ANET’s efforts were also directed at appropriate interventions such as donating locally manufactured dugouts (dungis), refabricating indigenous tools to carve traditional canoes, rebuilding houses based on traditional designs, etc. while slowly rebuilding its own research programmes. Manish Chandi’s work on restoring populations of the nipa palm (Nypa fruticans) in the Nicobars has been an interesting example of an intervention with long-term consequences, intervention that is ongoing despite aid having died down and the disaster largely forgotten. Nipa palm, a culturally indispensable species for the local community (a number of rituals and traditional practices were contingent on its availability) was largely lost from the southern and central Nicobars as a result of the tsunami. Manish and his team has been sourcing seed from the Andamans to restore populations in the Nicobars.
In the years following the tsunami, ANET saw the growth of formal long-term terrestrial and marine monitoring programmes as well as increasing collaborations with other institutions. Post-2010, under the leadership of Tasneem Khan, ANET expanded its capacity to SCUBA training and education by briefly partnering with Lacadives, a leading dive agency in the country. In 2011, MCBT created formal collaborations with the National Centre for Biological Sciences and the Nature Conservation Foundation, as well as long-term partners such as Dakshin Foundation to strengthen its research and education programmes. By mid 2014, ANET established an in-house research dive unit that facilitated scientific diving .
In 2017, the management and operations of ANET were overhauled in such a way that MCBT, the parent institution could focus on its expansion plans in the Indian mainland, which include the development of a world class zoo and a state of art captive facility for herpetofauna. A formal partnership was established with the Dakshin Foundation, with the understanding that the latter will revision and manage ANET to address environmental and social challenges in the islands while at the same time upholding the values and vision of the trustees of both organisations. In July 2019, Dakshin was able to purchase ANET from MCBT, thanks to generous financial support from Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies. Today ANET is managed with this vision in mind and has transitioned into a multi-disciplinary research and intervention hub which aims to address issues of contemporary significance in the islands. Our work addresses a broad range of concerns, and ranges from research, interventions and education. In addition to independent interventions by ANET staff, the field base also facilitates the work of a large number of institutional partners.