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Tech Mogul Phaneesh Murthy Takes Aim at Poachers to Protect Indian Tiger Populations

Phaneesh Murthy is known throughout the business and tech communities for pioneering some of the most successful business innovations over the past 30 years. He is the founder and CEO of the consulting agency Primentor, Inc., which provides business leaders around the globe with expertise in the areas of IT, business strategies, and restructuring. 

What Murthy is less known for is his pivotal role in protecting and proliferating endangered tigers in his home country of India. His philanthropic work with private and government organizations goes back almost as far as his professional career. And fortunately, he has achieved nearly as much success in his conservation efforts as he has in board rooms of Fortune 500 companies.  

Hope, Endangered

Phaneesh Murthy began his conservation work to protect tigers in the early 2000s. At this time, India’s private sector was experiencing accelerated growth. While this lifted millions out of poverty, it had a devastating effect on tigers whose habitats were encroached upon by developers and poachers.  

“Tigers were going through an existential crisis,” Murthy explains. “And for those of us who have seen these magnificent animals in the wild, we wanted to make sure that our children would be able to see them too.”

Many didn’t yet understand the effect that India’s growth would have on tiger populations, but Murthy realized early on that India’s national animal would soon become extinct if no one took action. His foresight may be one reason that tigers survived the worst period of their decline. Indeed, by 2006, there were only about 1,400 tigers left in the wild in all of India.

Helping People, Helping Tigers

In the mid-00s, Phaneesh Murthy helped found The Kabini Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the jungle system of Kabini, a critical tiger habitat near Murthy’s native Bangalore. As a business-minded person, he looked at the issue of endangered tiger habitats in Kabini from an economic perspective.

“We noticed that the villagers were encroaching on the forest to maintain their livelihood,” he said. “Our primary objective was to ensure that the villagers had other means of livelihood so that they wouldn’t need to disturb the tigers’ natural habitat.”

The Kabini Foundation began instituting vocational training for the villagers, giving them the means to seek more lucrative employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. As the villagers pivoted to new types of work, they no longer needed to cut away at the jungle.  

Soaring Stripes in Kabini 

Over the years, Murthy worked to raise awareness of threats to tigers and contribute to tiger conservation funds. For example, he organized a charity golf tournament for CEOs. He and his partner won the tournament, and he donated his prize money to tiger conservation efforts.

Murthy has contributed to numerous other conservation organizations and initiatives, and as a result, the number of tigers in the Kabini jungle system has soared.  

“In the wild, the normal tiger density is roughly 1 per 60 square kilometers,” Murthy says. “The tiger density in Kabini is now 1 per 6 square kilometers—about 10x the average.”

Tackling the Threat of Poachers

Since its low point in 2006, India’s tiger population has increased to about 2,200 thanks to the efforts of India’s previous government, local Forest Departments, and Phaneesh Murthy. But as India continues to boom, tigers still verge on the brink of extinction. One of their biggest threats remains to be poachers—those who hunt tigers to sell their pelts and bones. 

India now has 53 national tiger reserves—up from just 27 in 2007. Now, Phaneesh Murthy is focusing his efforts on protecting the tigers in these reserves from those who would do them harm. 

“We continue to support anti-poaching efforts because we don’t want tiger pelts and other products on the market. That’s where we will be spending a lot of our effort,” he says.

With any luck, and with the support of Phaneesh Murthy and passionate philanthropists like him, Indian tigers will thrive in reserves just as they have in Kabini.