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Zafar Rashid Futehally, one of the most prominent naturalists, long time activist for conservation, secretary of BNHS and publisher of numerous avian-related literature, was born today in 1920.
Born on 19th March 1920
Newsletter for Birdwatchers, his periodical, inspired many to communicate their observations about the natural avian diversity in India. His name, Zafar Rashid Futehally, would be remembered as one of the premier naturalists India ever produced, for he was born in Bombay, on the 19th of March, 1920.
He was married to a niece of Salim Ali, perhaps the most famous Indian ornithologist, and it was with him that he first observed a bird survey. The year was 1944, and he was awed by what he saw - and from then he frequently joined Salim in his camps. Zafar would then take to writing about birds in mainstream columns, helping knowledge about them and their conservation spread far and wide beyond academic circles.
His publication, the Newsletter for Birdwatchers, still is one of the foremost journals for avian news.
Joining the Bombay Natural History Society, he would head up numerous studies and campaigns for the preservation of natural life wherever he felt they were being threatened.
His efforts at lobbying led to the establishment of the Karnala Sanctuary for Birds at Raigad and he also supported a project to radio collar and study tiges, a declining population in India back then too. While that project ultimately did not come to much due to local opposition, it would set the foundations for a later Save the Tiger project.
Even when he retired by the 1990s, he would continue to write about the conservation issues around South India, opposed to the exploitation of lake waters especially, around Bangalore. Futehally would be instrumental to Indian ornithology’s mainstreaming into the media, into people’s newspapers and homes, where they might be interested in it or simply read his articles for curiosity’s sake. Whatever the case, the legacy of Zafar Rashid Futehally would be rewarded by the Order of the Golden Ark, a Dutch Order of Merit, and numerous awards from the Government of Karnataka.
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