Do you know this ornithologist who is often referred to as the ” Birdman of India”?
Indian environmentalist Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali (Birdman of India) (1896-1987) is considered to be one of India’s greatest ornithologist and naturalist. At the age of 10, he developed an interest in birds, when he accidentally shot a male sparrow while playing with his toy gun. This incident moved him and he devoted his life to bird conservation and preservation. This story was discovered from his bird notes.
He dedicated his life and worked for the birds of his land to present these ethereal spirits of the air to his countrymen and the world. His research work is considered highly influential in the development of ornithology. Mr Ali was one of the first Indians for conducting a systematic birds survey across India and wrote several books on birds that popularized ornithology in India. He closely studied the birds in India during British rule.
He was probably the only person who travelled to all the obscure regions of India and the Indian subcontinent at one time or another of his life and he knew the country, its forests and its birdlife intimately. A big salute for his conservation efforts to save many biodiversity hotspots in India.
The birdman of India was as active in the field of conservation as he was in ornithology. He not only researched birds but also contributed to the arena of protection of nature. He spoke often about the importance of projects such as those which use wildlife sustainability. He is known for helping in the establishment of Bharatpur Birds Sanctuary and conserving the Silent Valley National Park. He was a key figure behind the Bombay Natural History Society after 1947. He also inaugurated a bird sanctuary on the bank of the Mula Mutha river in Pune which is home to more than 100 species of terrestrial and aquatic birds. Several species of birds, a couple of birds sanctuaries and institutions have been named after him.
For his extraordinary efforts, he was given an international award of INR 5 lakhs which he donated for conservation. For his immense contribution and efforts to popularize ornithology in India, the government of India honoured him with Padma Bhushan in 1958 and Padma Vibhushan in 1978. He was also awarded the J.Paul Getty award for conservation leadership in 1975. He received ample honours and awards. His remarkable achievements and contributions towards conservation remain unparalleled. He was the pioneer of birds surveys and studies globally. His efforts to popularize ornithology in India is of immense importance and significance. His work has started the tradition of India based social audit and he was an auditor of his books.
In India, birds watchers see him as their first guru. Even today his work is followed by many birds lovers, ornithologists, naturalists globally and it can’t cease to exist.
In the end, I would like to share one of his famous quotes that I love personally “I suppose I have done my bit, it’s now up to you younger people” – Salim Ali.
Written By : Areefa Ali
Editor and Team lead : Tanya Kaushik