Dr Nishant Kumar

Dr Nishant Kumar


Name: Dr Nishant Kumar
Position: Visiting Fellow
Email: nishant.kumar@zoo.ox.ac.uk


I have been interested in evolutionary ecology since my undergraduate days at Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi (DU), where I worked on insect ecology and behavior, vulture conservation advocacy and monitoring of tiger and its prey. In 2011, I earned a Govt. of India fellowship to join the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for my MSc, during which I started a new project on resource selection by Black Kites in Delhi and NCR. I became a Junior Research Fellow at WII in January 2014, and joined the EGI in October 2014 as a Felix Scholar to study for a DPhil in the supervision of Prof Andrew Gosler (EGI) and Prof Fabrizio Sergio (CSIC, Spain).


I am a researcher jointly based at EGI and WII. In Delhi, I study opportunistic animal responses to resources provided by humans, and how centuries of coexistence have tied urban ecology of commensals with religiously founded patronage and ritual animal feeding by people. Currently, I am interested in understanding the socio-economic impacts of scavenging ecosystem services provided by opportunistic commensals and how their biocultural links are vital for a sustainable urban future in South Asia. Therefore, with Prof(s). Ben Sheldon, Greger Larson (School of Archeology, Oxford), Yadvendradev V Jhala and Qamar Qureshi (WII), and Dr Radhika Khosla (Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, Somerville College), I have convened a collaborative network of experts from more than 25 institutions across the world (for details see www.PAWS-web.site). This team has academicians (sciences and beyond), practitioners, administrators and policymakers for actionable research on urban spaces that are contested due to their finitude and dynamic characterisation between People, Animals and Waste Systems (PAWS-Web). The initiative was funded by India-Oxford initiative’s Global Challenges Research Funds.

With Prof Ben Sheldon, I aim to study the influences of animal societies on the flow of information from individuals to populations, potentially impacting the spatial cognition in commensals within rapidly urbanizing tropical megacities in the Indian subcontinent and Kenya. Specifically, we aim to work on zoonotic disease costs of social-structures within animal populations driven by dispersion of anthropogenic food waste in heterogeneously developed tropical megacities.

I completed my D.Phil. last year through my ongoing project on a facultative city scavenger, the Black Kite Milvus migrans (for details, see www.delhikites.wixsite.com/121212). The study incorporated satellite telemetry on kites (Hindi: Cheel) which congregate on the garbage dumps of Delhi (n = 19 GPS-tagged individuals). It led to an amazing discovery of the annual migration of Black-eared kites Milvus migrans lineatus into Mongolia, China, and Russia. Meanwhile, the resident-breeding kite subspecies benefited from philanthropic attitudes of communities that offered meat to these birds. The enormous flocks of more than 10,000 Black-eared kites over landfills may carry pathogens and toxicants to and from cities like Delhi and distribute them along their migratory journeys.  This research has indicated how wild and feral animals that interact with humans locally as efficient agents of garbage disposal may have local and global ramifications to origin and spread of diseases that are similar to COVID-19. Understandably so, now, I seek to investigate the links between public health, and the ecology of feral and wild animals in the framework of One Health.

Personal email: ryu.nishant@gmail.com

Twitter accounts: @_nishantk; @delhikites; @common2science

Instagram: @delhikites

PAWS-web project website: www.PAWS-web.site

Black Kite project website: www.delhikites.wixsite.com/121212


(i) Peer Reviewed Research Articles and Book Chapters

Kumar N, Gupta U, Jhala Y V, Qureshi Q, Gosler A and Sergio F. (Accepted). GPS telemetry unveils the regular high-elevation crossing of the Himalayas by a migratory raptor: implications for a definition of a Central Asian Flyway. Scientific Reports

Kumar N, Singh A, Harriss-White B .2019. Review of Urban Affairs, special issue Urban waste and the human-animal interface in Delhi. Economic and Political Weekly. 54 (47) 42-47

Kumar N, Gupta U, Malhotra H, Jhala Y V, Qureshi Q, Gosler A and Sergio F .2019. The population density of an urban raptor is inextricably tied to human cultural practices. Proceedings of the Royal. Soc:B.

Kumar N, Jhala Y V, Qureshi Q, Gosler A and Sergio F .2019. Human-attacks by an urban raptor are tied to human subsidies and religious practices. Scientific Reports

Kumar N, Qureshi Q, Jhala Y V, Gosler A and Sergio F. 2018. Offspring defense by an urban raptor responds to human subsidies and ritual animal-feeding practices. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0204549.

Kumar N., Gupta U., Jhala Y. V., Qureshi Q., Gosler A., Sergio F. 2018. Habitat selection by an avian top predator in the tropical megacity of Delhi: human activities and socio-religious practices as prey facilitating tools. Urban Ecosystems.

Sergio, F., Tavecchia, G., Tanferna, A., López Jiménez, L., Blas, J., De Stephanis, R., Marchant, T. A., Kumar, N., Hiraldo, F. 2015. No effect of satellite tagging on survival, recruitment, longevity, productivity and social dominance of a raptor, and the provisioning and condition of its offspring. Journal of Applied Ecology. 52 (6):1665–1675. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12520.

Kumar, N., Mohan, D., Jhala, Y.V., Qureshi, Q. and Sergio, F. 2014. Density, laying date, breeding success and diet of Black Kites Milvus migrans govinda in the city of Delhi (India). Bird Study 61: 1-8.

Kumar N (Accepted) Dynamic characterisation of space in a South-Asian megacity shapes the commensalism of an urban raptor. In Indigenous Urbanism. Eds. Sharma Shalini, Edwards Gareth. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group UK. (Based on the conference titled, “Indigenous Urbanism: Exploring Climate Justice in Resilient Cities” jointly organised by UNESCO Category 2 Centre at WII) 

Kumar N et al. (Accepted) Human Dimensions modulate commensalism in Tropical Megacities: the case of an urban raptor in Delhi (India) In Ecology of Tropical Cities: Natural and Social Sciences Applied to the Conservation of Urban Biodiversity’. Eds. Fabio Angeoletto, Piotr Tryjanowski and Mark Fellowes. Springer Nature.

(ii) Science Communication

Kumar N, Gupta U, Jhala Y V, Qureshi Q, Gosler A and Sergio F (2020) Cities, why do certain birds thrive there? Frontiers for Young Minds. (8:46. doi: 10.3389/frym.2020.00046)

Kumar, N., Taneja, Y., Kalita, M., & Gupta, U. 2018. “Our feathered friends of DelhiWildlife Institute of India (Hindi)

Kumar, N., Taneja, Y., Kalita, M., & Gupta, U. 2018. “Our feathered friends of DelhiWildlife Institute of India (English)

Kumar N. 2011. Conservation breeding of vultures, Journal of Wildlife Society, St.Stephen’s College, Delhi University.

Kumar N. 2011. Can tiger and Vultures share the cake of priority? Science for Society, Delhi University.