Comprehensive guide to South Indian wildlife launched

Stream Ruby Damselfly  

When David Raju shadowed dragonflies as a child in his hometown in Kottayam, Kerala, little did anyone realise his fascination for insects would become his profession.

“A wildlife enthusiast spoke at my college and I realised I knew so many species by sight even though I didn’t know their names. It piqued my interest and I began hanging around at Nature clubs to learn more,” says David Raju, 35, discussing his foray into the world of wild animals.

David Raju

David Raju  

David met Surya Ramachandran, 31, while working at Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. An engineer, Surya visited the reserve and fell in love with the guiding experience. “I wanted to be one of them — taking people into the jungle, helping them connect with the wilderness and making a lasting impact.”

He applied at Satpura for an internship in 2011, where he spent five years, followed by two at Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh.

As colleagues, David and Surya would act as guides for those venturing into the wild. “We would carry about eight to 10 field guides apart from provisions for guests, through difficult terrain,” says Surya, adding, “A friend of ours brought back a comprehensive guide from a safari in South Africa; it was packed with engaging information and photographs.”

Comprehensive guide to South Indian wildlife launched

“It was an amazing book and we wondered why there wasn’t something similar in India. That was what got us started on our first book,” says David. The result — The Photographic Field Guide: Wildlife of Central India — was published in 2016. “We put in useful information in simple words to serve as a basic guide. Even if someone was participating in a big cat safari, this book would have the required information on other life forms found in that area,” says Surya.

The success of their first field guide spurred the duo to work on the wildlife of South India next. “Surya is from Chennai and I am from Kerala; between the two of us, we had covered quite a bit of the South and are well aware of its fauna. It pointed to our next practical step,” says David.

For Surya, it was more than just collating their combined knowledge. He says, “At the time, we were also involved in a lot of field work for scientists. Though we already knew quite a lot, there were still areas where the experts would have to explain things to us. It dawned on us that the biodiversity in South India is so vast, a guide was essential.”

Striped coral snake

Striped coral snake  

He adds that the realisation was further pronounced when they began collating matter — the book on Central India had around 860 species, while the one on South Indian wildlife covers 2,000-odd species.

Though it took two years to compile 16 years of experience, David believes it was easier working on their second book. “We now knew what to do and how to go about doing it in terms of format, number of pages etc.”

As with their first book, the duo asked other naturalists to share photographs they had clicked during their own excursions into the jungle. Apart from their own contributions, The Photographic Field Guide: Wildlife of South India comprises over 2,000 photos submitted by around 200 wildlife enthusiasts, naturalists and photographers.

Comprehensive guide to South Indian wildlife launched

“We talk about the Western Ghats all the time, but the Eastern Ghats is no less; it’s just less explored. This is the kind of ideology that brought us into writing — we eventually want to have five to six books that cover the whole country,” says Surya. They are currently working on a book about Western Indian and Himalayan wildlife.

Though The Photographic Field Guide: Wildlife of South India is praised for being comprehensive, handy and informative, David says the best feedback he has ever received is that children find it hard to put down.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 10:22:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/comprehensive-guide-to-south-indian-wildlife-launched/article34944772.ece

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