A chat with Madras Crocodile Bank’s new director

Pramila Rajan is the new Director of Madras Crocodile Bank and Centre for Herpetology   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Pramila Rajan’s relationship with the Madras Crocodile Bank dates back to the 1970s. Yet, her recent appointment as the director of the bank was sparked by something innocuous — a social media advertisement. “I first saw the ad calling for candidates last January, and jumped at the chance to interview,” says Pramila.

Before she elaborates on her plans for the Croc Bank, the conservationist looks back at her decades-long tryst with it as an outsider. Her first experience with the organisation was facilitated by the late Jagannathan Vijaya. A pioneering herpetologist, Vijaya back in the late 1970s was just, “a dear friend,” recalls Pramila, “We graduated in Zoology together from Ethiraj College. I started spending weekends at Madras Snake Park with her and have measured baby pythons and weighed and fed vitamin drops to baby crocodiles. I also visited the Croc Bank with her, way back then.”

“Around the same time, my father SJ Rajan, the officer-in-charge of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) research centre in Kovalam, initiated turtle conservation activities under the guidance of Mr Romulus Whitaker. I used to help them collect and hatch turtle eggs at the centre and release hatchlings into the ocean,” she recalls. Ironically, due to the pandemic, she has been unable to visit the bank since her appointment.

Plan of action

“The park has been closed since March 16, 2020. It reopened and welcomed visitors for a brief period between November 10, 2020 and April 20, 2021 when it was forced to shut down again due to the second wave,” says Pramila. She states that her main focus at this time is “to organise fundraising campaigns, for projects and zoo maintenance and focus on improving our social media presence to generate revenuesPresently, all our energies are directed towards tiding over the lack of income through ticket sales, by finding new funding sources through the virtual media.”

Also in the pipeline is a series of videos focussing on different species residing at the bank, made for students of rural schools. “We are aiming to keep them ready by June or July, and hope that it brings the children a little change from their online classes,” says Pramila. Children and their parents have long been the bank’s most ardent fan base. Besides this, Pramila is hoping to rope in field experts to talk about their work, and organise online workshops and seminars. “Virtual programs will be developed to connect with our patrons and supporters and let them know what is happening at the Croc Bank,” she adds.

This is but one aspect of Pramila’s new role; another key one, as she points out, is to “ensure the smooth functioning of Croc Bank, providing for its reptilian population and keeping its various projects alive. I would like to take forward the conservation initiatives of the zoo and its field stations.” Besides the Centre for Herpetology in Chennai, the Croc Bank has two more research stations: the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) in the Western Ghats of southern India, and the Gharial Conservation Alliance (GCA) in the Chambal River in northern India.

While the bank’s well-wishers in Chennai cannot do much about the other centres, they have constantly supported its operations in Chennai in myriad ways. The Croc Bank’s adoption programme has seen a spurt in takers since last year, not only by individuals and families, but also leading businesses. “Ford has adopted 113 of our mugger crocodiles,” says Pramila, “We recently received a generous donation from TVS Motor Co. and others. Croc Bank has a strong network of friends in India and abroad and we are very grateful to everyone who helped maintain the zoo and its animals in excellent condition.”

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 10:10:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/madras-croc-banks-new-director-pramila-rajan/article34716111.ece

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