In this blog, we will read about the Top 6 Wildlife Conservationists in India.
- A. A. Dunbar Brander
- Caption James Forsyth
- Edward James Corbett
- Frederick Walter Champion
- Kailash Sankhala
- Billy Arjun Singh
A. A. Dunbar Brander – 1877
James Brander and Alice Grant welcomed a son into the world in April 1877 named him as Dunbar Brander. Dunbar Brander was a member of the Royal Geographical Society (F.R.G.S.) and the Zoological Society of London (F.Z.S.). During his tenure with the Forest Services, he spent twenty-one years in India’s central provinces. He spent the majority of these two decades in Kanha National Park.
One of the final great shikaris of the India Forest Service during the British Administration was Dunbar Brander. He served only in the Central Provinces between the years 1900 and 1921. After completing his studies at Cooper’s Hill and in Germany, he entered the forest service. He was raised in his home in Lossiemouth, Scotland, where he had plenty of opportunities to learn and love the art of shooting. He made the most of his sporting chances in India, where his reputation as a shikari quickly spread.
Early in the year 1921, when he was in charge of the Duke of Connaught’s camp in the sal forests of Balaghat, he conducted one of his final shootings in India. Throughout his whole military career, he was gathering information for what he once referred to as his “magnum opus,” or more specifically, his now-classic book on the “Wild Animals of Central India.” He enjoyed all types of hunting, including big game, wild birds, and pigsticking during the Nagpur Hunt in the Wardha District. He had extensive knowledge of wild animals and had even traveled to Africa to see the big game while on leave.
Those who knew him said he was a really funny and enjoyable friend. He wasn’t very tall, but he was far from frail. In spite of his stern demeanor, he was one of the funniest people you could meet. He knew his Bible quite well and never forgot it, like the majority of Scotsmen of his period.
From November through April, foresters of those times spent time in the woodlands covered by a canvas. His employment required him to travel far from well-traveled roads and regular stations during the months when he camped in the jungle. He gained knowledge about all areas of the Jungle as a result of this exposure. Animals were seen to A.A. Dunbar Brander in conditions that are not present now. He recorded everything of his observations, including some odd animal behavior.
Originally a hunter, he gave up hunting and claimed that by watching an animal, one might better comprehend it. Wild Animals in Central India, one of the best books on Indian wildlife ever written, was written after he collected his notes. This book was published in 1923 and served as the primary source for George Schaller’s study of Indian wildlife, The Deer & the Tiger, who is another conservationist in India.
The book “Wild Animals of Central India” is of the utmost importance for everyone interested in Indian wildlife because it contains first-hand accounts of the man who spent years walking through these jungles.
He gained an extraordinary awareness of animals, their environments, and their lifestyles through his careful observation of these wild species. For Indian wildlife enthusiasts, experts, naturalists, and environmentalists, this book is extremely important.
Caption James Forsyth (1838 – 1871)
Caption James Forsyth (1838 – 1871) was an officer in the Bengal Staff Corps who became one of the first European to explore Satpura. After obtaining his M.A. from an English university, Forsyth joined the East India Company’s civil service and traveled to India to work as an assistant conservator and acting conservator of forests. He quickly rose through the ranks to become Nimar’s settlement officer and deputy commissioner, reporting to Sir Richard Temple, 1st Baronet, the Central Provinces’ Chief Commissioner.
Forsyth, who was a member of the Bengal staff corps, visited all of India’s Central Provinces between 1862-4. Near the sources of the Son River, the Mahanadi River, and the Narmada River, he arrived in Amarkantak. He traveled east to the sál woods over the Chhattisgarh plain.
In fact, Pachmarhi referred as “Queen of Satpura was discovered by Caption James Forsyth when he was traveling Jhansi in 1857. He noticed this stunning area, rich in the beauty of nature when he was traveling. It was quickly transformed by the British into a resort for their troops. J. Forsyth’s praise of Pachmarhi’s beauty in his well-known book “The Highlands of Central India” contributed to the city’s growing appeal. The bungalows and cottages that represent the opulence of British construction still give the cantonment its colonial appeal from the British era. Pachmarhi and the forests surrounding it are included in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It should come as no surprise that tourists from India and other countries have been flocking to this stunning region year after year.
As a well-known hunter, Forsyth released a book on the sporting rifle and its projectiles in 1862. He wrote an account of his expeditions in 1870, and before the year’s end, he had returned to England with it. The work was scheduled for publication, but the author passed away as the sheets were running through the press. It was published after the author’s death in November 1871 and was titled The Highlands of Central India. Forsyth passed away on May 1 in London.
Edward James Corbett – (1875 – 1955)
The legends of Jim Corbett are still alive when one witnesses the vast jungle of Jim Corbett National parks. One of India’s most visited tiger reserves and national park is still playing a significant role in conservation which was first thought by Jim Corbett. His legacy still provides a safe home to his beloved mammal The Tigers which he referred to as “a large-hearted gentleman with boundless courage”.
Born to Marry Jane Corbett on 25th July 1875 in Nainital was a third-generation domiciled Irishman on paper but through and through he was an Indian. He lived and worked most of his life in India. Colonel Edward James Corbett lived in Gurney House in Nainital for the greater part of his life, though he had a very large family though he was very fond of his sister Margaret Winfred Corbett. She remained his favorite companion until his death as both choose not to marry.
Jim Corbett was probably the first conservationist in the country. He was the one who first established a bird sanctuary in Nainital in 1933 within his municipality where hunting of bird and animals were prohibited. He founded the Association for protection of wildlife of United Provinces with the help of Malcolm Hailey as its sponsor. This association conducted research and studied the wildlife in this region. In 1935 Jim Corbett finally helped Malcolm Hailey to establish the first national park of India. It was renamed Ramganga National Park in 1955 after Independence. But soon after Jim Corbett’s death in 1955, it was renamed Jim Corbett national park as a tribute to this great man who lived and died for these parts of India. His death was sudden after a heart stroke and he is buried in Neyri Africa where he and his sister shifted after India gained its independence.
He was a man of immense talent. He could even sing and play guitar. He worked for 22 years (1892 – 1914) in Bihar North-Western railways. His book “My India” reflects the time he spent in Bihar and his association with Indians. One can still visit several houses of Jim Corbett which are now museum-like Gurney House in Nainital, Kaladhungi Museam which use to winter home of Corbett. Just behind this, you can still visit Choti Haldwani the village Jim Corbett donated to villagers which lived there. Just few kilometers from Chiti Haldwani you can visit a fall named after Jim Corbett i.e., “Corbett Fall”. One can trek on the footsteps on the trek on which Jim Corbett’s last shot Man eater of Mohan.
There are several books by Jim Corbett which describe his hunting expeditions and his life in India: Jungle Stories. Privately published in 1935 (only 100 copies), Man-Eaters of Kumaon, The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, My India, Jungle Lore, The Temple Tiger and More Man-eaters of Kumaon, Tree Tops, My Kumaon: Uncollected Writings.
There are two movies made on Jim Corbett: India: Kingdom of the Tiger a 42-minute documentary. Man-Eater of Kumaon
Frederick Walter Champion (1893 – 1970)
Frederick Walter Champion was a British forester who worked in British India and East Africa. He was born on 24 August 1893 in Surrey. He rose to fame in the 1920s as one of the first wildlife photographers and conservationists in the UK and India.
Champion was raised in a naturalist family. George Charles Champion, an entomologist from England, was his father. His brother Sir Harry George Champion, a renowned expert in classification of Indian forests, was also a forester. After arriving in India in 1913, Champion worked for the East Bengal Police Department until 1916. On August 21, 1916, he received his appointment as a second lieutenant into the British Indian Army Reserve of Officers (Cavalry branch). On March 8, 1917, he received a temporary promotion to captain, and on August 21, 1917, he received a promotion to lieutenant.
He joined the Imperial Forestry Service in the United Provinces of India after his military service, rising to the position of Deputy Conservator of Forest. Every person is affected by war, and Champion was no exception. As a result of his wartime experiences, he detested murdering and shooting any living thing. He openly condemned those who go hunting for sport. He enjoyed using his camera to photograph and record tigers. He pioneered using a camera trap to capture wildlife in the Sivalik Hills. He developed a camera in the 1920s that could be remotely activated to take pictures. He also used a flashlight to take a number of incredible nighttime pictures, some of which are the earliest known images of wild tigers, leopards, sloth bears, dholes, and other animals. He understood that distinct stripe patterns may be used to identify specific tigers in well-done photos.
Before conservation became fashionable, Champion was a fervent conservationist who worked tirelessly to rescue tigers and their forest habitats. He had a strong belief in the forest department’s protective function in India.  He advocated for cutting rewards for wildlife slaughter, banning motor vehicles from entering Reserved Forests, and limiting the number of gun licences available. Jim Corbett, among other former hunters who are now conservationists, was motivated by his dedication to the cause. He and Corbett were both founding members of India’s first national park, which was created in 1935 and afterwards renamed Corbett National Park.
Champion relocated to East Africa when India attained independence in 1947, where he worked as a Divisional Forest Officer for Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti until his retirement.
Books by F.W Campion: The Jungle in Sunlight and Shadaw , Tripwire for a Tiger: Selected Works of F.W Champion
Kailash Sankhala (1925 – 1994)
Kailash Sankhala was an Indian biologist and conservationist. He was born on 30 January 1995. He served as Rajasthan’s Chief Wildlife Warden and Director of the Delhi Zoological Park. He is best recognized for his efforts to protect tigers. Sankhala served as the organization’s first director when it was founded in India in 1973. He was referred to as “The Tiger Man of India”. In 1992, he received the Padma Shri, and in 2013, he received the Rajasthan Ratan.
In 1953, Sankhala began working for the Forest Service. He managed Rajasthan forests as well as animal sanctuaries in Sariska, Bharatpur, Banvihar, and Ranthambhor from 1953 and 1964. He was named Director of the Delhi Zoological Park in 1965. He was named the director of Project Tiger, an initiative to prevent the extinction of the Indian tiger, in 1973.
Sankhala carried out a census of the tigers in India in 1971. Later, as a result of his studies, he was appointed the first Project Tiger Director in 1973. In 1989, Sankhala established the Tiger Trust. After Sankhala passed away, his son Pradeep Sankhala assumed control of the Tiger Trust. In his honor, the Kailash Sankhala Fellowship Award for conservation efforts was created by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Books are written by him: Tiger! The Story of Indian Tiger, Tigerland, Garden of Gods: The Waterbird Sanctuary at Bharatpur, Return of the Tiger.
Billy Arjun Singh (1917 – 2010)
Kunwar “Billy” Arjan Singh, was the second son of Kunwar Jasbir Singh a member of the Ahuwalia dynasty of Kapurthala. Billy Arjun Singh was born on August 15, 1917, in Gorakhpur. He was an Indian hunter turned conservationist and an author. Billy Arjun Singh was a voracious hunter in his teens. But once after shooting a young leopard in the headlights of his car, he suddenly changed his mind about hunting, feeling only disgust at the idea of killing, and vowed to devote the rest of his life to conservation. His first significant undertaking was to conserve a herd of barasingha in the nearby Sathiana range of the Dudhwa forestry reserve.
Soon after Independence, after Billy left the army, he began farming in the Dudhwa area of the Lakhimpur District and built his first house at Palia in Jasbir Nagar. Barasingha. The thunder of barasingha hooves was commonplace. Over the years, he struggled to develop his farm, but despite the difficulties, he grew to appreciate it even more because of its proximity to the forest. When they once shot two barasinghas at Bhadi Tal with his brother Balram and a friend named John Withnell, they learned that the animals were a protected species. They immediately reported themselves to the Divisional Forest Officer, who let them go and thanked them for being so forthright in admitting their error. He was a pioneer settler, but as the years went by, farmers from Pakistan started to emigrate in great numbers. When a large company called The Collective Farms and Forests Ltd. cleared 10,000 acres, he could see the writing on the wall and he then began to seek a halt to this destruction.
In May 1959, during the height of summer, he was in the deep forest on Bhagwan Piari, the elephant with whom Billy Arjun Singh spent 25 wonderful years. Over the Dudhwa meadows, he could make out the Himalayan Mountain ranges. He came across a piece of land held by a politician who had lost all interest in it near the meeting of the Soheli and Neora rivers. Then, he acquired it and converted it into a working farm that was frequently swamped by raging rivers but benefited enormously from the fertile silt that was left behind. Here, he managed to share a working farm while still protecting the local wildlife.
Billy Arjun Singh’s efforts to save animals are most recognized for his successful reintroduction of a tiger and a leopard into the Dudhwa National Park’s natural habitat. He began by raising Prince, a male leopard cub that he later successfully released back into the wild. He then fostered Harriet and Juliette, two orphaned female leopard cubs, to give Prince a mate.
He purchased a hand-reared female tiger cub named Tara from the Twycross Zoo in the United Kingdom in July 1976 and returned her to the wild in the Dudhwa National Park. It was a very controversial process which he was really opposed by many but with the approval of India’s then-prime minister Indira Gandhi, he successfully reintroduced Tara whose litters successfully roamed in Dudhwa. In 1990s some tigers of Dudhwa protected areas were observed having Siberian tigers phenotype (set of observable characteristics or traits of an organism) which later with DNA studies shows that it came from Tara which had Siberian tiger genes.
Billy is a widely honored conservationist. He was awarded World Wildlife Gold Medal in 1976. He was given the Order of Golden Ark in 1997. In 2004 he received Getty Award administered by WWF for his innovative contribution to conservation and creating public awareness. In 2006 he received Yash Bharti Award and Padma Bhushan. Some of the books written by Billy Arjun Singh are Tiger Haven, Tara-a Tigress, Prince of Cats, and Tiger! Tiger, The legend of the maneater, Watching India’s wildlife : the anthology of a lifetime.
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