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“We are in an environmental dark zone”: Surya Ramachandran


Reyan Mishra

Jan 26, 2021

Via FabHotels

Netra Nagrajan, a Beyond 8 learner had an opportunity to speak with Surya Ramachandran on the subject of passion in the form of naturalism. Surya Ramachandran is naturalist, author, and an expedition leader who has recently set up wildlife lodges in Ladakh. His latest published work “Photographic Field Guide to Wildlife of South India'' is being hailed as one of its kind. Surya’s book takes us through various kinds of wildlife found in the southern region of India from land-strolling reptiles to sky-claiming birds. Here are interesting excerpts:

Netra: What inspired you to make a transition in your career from engineering to naturalism?

Ramachandran: As far as I can remember, I have always had an affinity towards wildlife. Every city I visited with my parents, had to include zoos as part of the bucket list. I even joined a few nature clubs but I didn’t have a clear career choice. The transition happened when I travelled to Africa and went on a safari - that’s where I met a naturalist for the first time and I wanted to be like him. He showed us places, introduced us to indigenous flora and fauna and he made my holiday much more meaningful with the deep insights he shared. Today I can easily credit him with influencing me into what I’m today.

Netra: What does a typical day in your life as an expedition guide look like?

Surya: Well, it may seem fancy that I’m in the wild showing people around. Fundamentally, it’s a lot of things that I’m supposed to do in my job. Our jobs on a daily basis are quite dependent on who our guests are and what they want. The day starts at 4 AM in the morning, we make tea for the guests, wake them up, plan the entire day’s safari and take them around to introduce them to indigenous wildlife.

But it’s much more than just that, as a guide, we not only lead them in the field but we also plan their menus, plan the day, and even have chats about their children and grandchildren sitting back home in the US, UK, or any other part of the world. Besides having knowledge of our area, we have to have certain soft skills such as leadership, communication, and entertainment. We are quite simply, the daily ambassadors of the parks.

Netra: What are the few takeaways from your recently published book the “ Photographic Field Guide to Wildlife of South India ”?

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Surya: With this book, David Raju (co-author) and I wanted to arouse the curiosity of the readers. The Photographic Field Guide is a simplification of a number of books that you are required to read in order to get acquainted with the southern wildlife of India. It’s a book that helps you understand and find the difference between a variety of species of a particular animal - and much more. We had a repository of knowledge and that’s what can be found in there.

Netra: Why do you think the conservation of Pulicat is important to the ecosystem?

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Surya: Just like any other coastal buffer habitat, Pulicat is one of the main factors of mineral exchanges in the region due to constant high-tides and low-tides. Besides the mineral benefits, the communities around the region are supporting their livelihood entirely on the strength of fishing. The mouth of the river is exposed to tides on a daily basis which helps in soaking in the offshore pressure - like cyclones and heavy wind.

Any changes or transformation in the coastal thin film of habitat will definitely show its repercussions on the inland ecosystem. We will have to come out for the cause of Pulicat today, no matter whether we are directly affected or not. Without people voicing their concerns and belief, the conservation of Pulicat can’t be easy. I think we are in an environmental dark zone in recent years. I hope that eventually people’s environmental conscience will rise and Pulicat will be safe.

Netra: What would your advice be for students who are interested in environmental studies?

Surya: I would encourage everyone to travel more, observe different parts of the country and world, see the difference between an organic farm and a chemically-charged farm, etc. When they interact with nature for themselves, they tend to form their own genuine conceptions - which will help them contribute something important to wildlife and nature. Environment is a very broad, open-ended topic - so you don’t need to rush, take it easy and get to know every aspect of it - and hopefully you will have your way in this.

Did Surya’s story amaze you? Watch the entire interview here:

For more exciting updates in the world of environment education, visit YouCAN’s Instagram page . If you missed our interview with Ashvini Menon on her journey in nature and wildlife conservation, read it here .

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