Karthikeyan S: A lifetime devoted to protecting Karnataka’s wild

Awareness around many of Karnataka’s lesser known fauna is thanks to the stellar work of chief naturalist Karthikeyan S, winner of the prestigious Carl Zeiss conservation award 2013.


The wildlife in the state of Karnataka is in good hands it seems. For every year, when 5 people from across the country have gone up to receive the prestigious Carl Zeiss Award for exemplary work in wildlife conservation, a Karnataka conservationist has been one of them. And in 2013, it is the Jungle Lodges and Resorts chief naturalist,  Karthikeyan Srinivasan.

Karthikeyan has done a great deal to spread education and awareness about lesser known species in Karnataka through his walks, camps, books, articles and more.

The soft-spoken Karthikeyan.S, Chief Naturalist at the Jungle Lodges and Resorts (Pvt). Ltd (JLR), is someone who lies low, much like the wildlife he works very hard to protect.

Karthik, as he is popularly known, has devoted practically his entire life to the pursuit of knowledge about Nature in all her forms. After years of wandering over hill and dale in the then extensive forests surrounding Bangalore, he spent 13 years at the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature – India before moving to JLR in early 2006.

Right through his life, he’s been very interested in passing on his knowledge to others as well, and inculcating the dos and don’ts of being a naturalist, to both adults and children. “It has been my constant endeavour to create awareness among people – young and old alike,” he says. “ I have done this for a period spanning over two and half decades through walks, talks, film screenings, workshops and nature camps. I hope I am able to continue with this for as long as I can.”

If butterfly-watching is a widely enjoyed nature activity today in Bangalore, credit for the same goes to Karthik. “During the 80s, birding was gaining momentum as a popular outdoor hobby,” he reminisces. “People armed with binoculars were going out and spending considerable time outdoors, looking at birds. I had, besides birds, learnt a little about butterflies and found them to be just as compelling and engaging.”  So,  he adds, “Whenever I went out birding, I would draw attention to butterflies we saw, and that sparked interest.”

The snowy angle butterfly owes much to the research work done by Karthikeyan.S.

He has written articles about the world of Nature extensively; simple-worded pieces in the local newspapers are as important to him as academic discourses in scientific journals. Though he is the first to deny it, he is considered an authority in several fields; last year, he sighted the very rare Snowy Angle butterfly in the jungles of Assam after a span of 120 years! Along with a couple of birding colleagues, his study of the Yellow-throated Bulbul, a bird found only in peninsular India, is considered definitive. He often conducts “Tree Walks” in Cubbon Park, identifying various trees, both native and exotic, and imparting scientific, historical, and cultural information about them.

Since he joined JLR, Karthik has also started introducing people to the natural world through the Naturalists’ Training Program. Though the program is predominantly an introduction to bird-watching, Karthik uses the opportunity to talk about the other denizens of the plant and animal kingdom.

Karthikeyan’s study of the yellow throated bulbul is considered definitive in the field.

Another aspect of Karthik that unfortunately only his nature students get to see, is his excellent photography skills. His macro photography images are something that all those who come into contact with him look forward to seeing again and again. About his photography, he says, with a shrug: “For me,  it is more of a tool to document natural history than as an artistic pursuit. I have also tried to use the pictures to support my education work … whether  it is through  talks, my blog or other publications. The combination can have a good impact on the audience.”

“Lesser creatures” are his other passion. Tigers may be the country’s show of wildlife strength, yet he is eager to show people how an hour in one’s own garden, looking at various insects, can provide just as riveting a learning experience.

“Be tolerant to organisms in your vicinity; do what you can to augment/foster existing diversity,” he says. “Understanding the creatures that share space with us is the key to conserving the bio-diversity that exists in our midst. Creating awareness about these, and getting more people to engage in similar activities can go a long way.”

Karthik maintains a blog at Wild Wanderer


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deepa Mohan is deeply concerned about the rapid evolution of her city, Bangalore, but is also interested in theatre, quizzing, music, wildlife, photography, learning about heritage, and writing, all of which she does with enthusiasm. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deepa Mohan is deeply concerned about the rapid evolution of her city, Bangalore, but is also interested in theatre, quizzing, music, wildlife, photography, learning about heritage, and writing, all of which she does with enthusiasm. more

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  • How I wish there were more teachers like him. He is very knowledgeable and passionate about living things (mostly small, the ignored ones), patient, humble and to sum it all, a wonderful human being! Hope many get to learn under him.
    Nice article, Deepa and again, congratulations to Karthik!

  • Mirza Yawar Baig

    Kartik and Deepa, not sure if Kartik will remember but I am an old friend of Rose and Vish and met Kartik when he was in college. He seems to look just like Shankar, his father, but with the beard. I am delighted to see this article. Well deserved acknowledgement of service to wildlife in this country where to this day the high and mighty consider it a god-given right to slaughter animals at will.Many thanks Deepa for sharing this article. And a big Hi! to Kartik even if he doesn’t remember me. Yawar

    • Deepa Mohan

      Thank you! I am asking Karthik to re-visit this article and see your comment.

  • John Marshall

    Very interesting article. I always enjoy learning about others who are committed to the cause of conservation.

  • Tamil Nadu Government is in the process of readying a butterfly park in Srirangapatanam. Originally one was to come up at Guindy Park in Chennai. I also know that Pune was building a butterfly farm near Koregaon Park on the banks of their local river.

    • Deepa Mohan

      I personally wish the Butterfly Park in Bannerghatta were maintained better 🙁 There were just 5 to 6 species when I visited last.

  • I’m glad I finally got to meet him last week! Thank you Deepa Mohan, for the nice profile highlighting someone who has done important work on biodiversity conservation in India without chasing after what you call the “tiger hierarchy”! Kudos.

  • Sekhar Raghavan

    Feeling very proud that we have people like Karthikeyan in this country!!