Please tell us about yourself
Ravi has been involved with wildlife and biodiversity research, with the purpose of conservation. With a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Anbanathapuram Vahaira Charities College, Bharathidasan University, Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu, and a doctorate from Saurashtra University in Gujarat based on his work on the ecology of the Asiatic Lions. , he is a pioneer in the study of Gir lions.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
“No romantic shikar-type childhood introduced me to nature. But my father used to subscribe to a lot of magazines and newspapers. I remember M. Krishnan’s column “My Country Notebook” in The Statesmane and it was a huge influence on me.”
In his early 20s, Ravi joined the Madras Naturalists’ Society and became a life member of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society). “I remember going to Gingee, a rocky and forested site about 150km from Chennai, with my friend Preston Ahimaz of WWF. It was here that I realized that my observational skills were pretty good. I could spot a bird before Preston could, even though I had no clue about its identity. This is when I felt that this was something I could do for the rest of my life.”
What was your career path?
Eventually Ravi joined a master’s programme in 1983, after which he joined the Wildlife Institute of India to study the Asiatic lions. In early 1986, he headed to Gir for his thesis and spent the next four years in the forest, living with lions.
Ravi wrote a proposal for the translocation of lions from Gir to improve their chances of survival. “Over the years, Gir lions have thrived wonderfully. But it’s like all our eggs are in one basket. In case of any natural calamity, or any unforeseen reason, we’re risking the remarkable conservation gains over the decades by restricting it in one place. So translocation to Madhya Pradesh is imperative. But of course politics has complicated matters.”
Ravi has interesting trivia about how the behaviour of Indian lions differs from African lions. “The girls and boys tend to hang out together a lot more in Africa. The Indian male and female lions primarily come together during mating. The Indian lion is a forest animal, lives in dense foliage and hunts alone or in very small groups. The African lions live in open grasslands and hunt in much bigger groups.”
How is a day in the life?
I like to be up by 4-4.30am and get some work done from home, before the family wakes up. By 8.30am or so, office begins and at my level, there is little fieldwork and more organizational work. You have to think for your team, look after primary objectives, look for finances and human resources. I am constantly in touch with the public, donors, the government and other partners.” His work involves travelling for seminars, research, field visits and talks.
What the job has to offer?
Sleepless nights, also plenty of excitement and intense satisfaction. “You’ve got to be very proactive. When you see how your contribution has made a difference, it’s very satisfying.”
Is education important?
In Ravi’s opinion, training helps. “Conservation is not just standing in front of a bulldozer and preventing deforestation. It can also involve serious academic work and hence good education certainly goes a long way.” At the bachelor’s level, a degree in biology, zoology or life sciences is helpful, and at the master’s level, a specialized course in conservation can give one a solid foundation for the future.
“It’s difficult to find enough people committed to the cause. Retaining talent is a huge task.”
How is the remuneration?
Directors of one of the bigger conservation organizations in India can expect to make about Rs 80,000 a month while at international organizations, such as WWF and Greenpeace, pay can run over Rs 1 lakh.