What’s an electrical engineer doing, deep inside a tiger reserve? Well, Surya Ramachandran is training young aspirants to be successful guides and tour leaders. Surya says that he was interested in wildlife right from childhood – his first trip to the zoo with his art teacher sparked off a whole new interest in him. He has been visiting various national parks ever since, both as amateur and professional. Surya currently works at the Singinawa Jungle Lodge in Kanha. He was earlier with the Forsythe Lodge near the Satpura National Park – one of the finest tiger reserves in the country.
Surya’s interests include birding, butterfly watching, herping and frogging. These are terms used by naturalists to describe their research areas of interest. Smaller mammals and other hard-to-spot species form the basis of his treks into areas that are still nature’s preserve. His interest in photography and video help him capture and document all his work, which he shares freely on social media.
We now chat with Surya about developing new interests, trips to forest reserves and protecting wild life in our forest lands.
Q: As a naturalist, are you concerned about the intrusion of tourists into natural habitats?
To answer your question, when a large number of people enter a national park on a daily basis, there is always a case of intrusion into a very private world. I too take groups of people inside the park – twice-a-day, through most of the year. But I always manage to keep forest etiquette in mind, and the need to be non-intrusive during these visits.
The role of a naturalist is all important – and has a lot to do with exploring, understanding and interpreting the magic of the wilderness. We also need to explain our findings using simple, easy-to-understand terminology. In addition to guiding tourists in and around the park, a naturalist also helps people build meaningful relationships within these spaces – the objective here is relate to your surroundings in a constructive manner.
At another level, any amount of good or neutral presence in national parks is useful, and necessary – because we also need the kind of awareness that goes with it – to protect our parks from poaching, and infuse support measures such as manpower and funds.
This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website >
Surya Ramachandran – on the role of a Naturalist