Archives of Contemporary India

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Rauf Ali Papers

Rauf Ali Papers

"I was fortunate enough to have begun my career as a wildlife biologist when this discipline was in its infancy in India, and observe the beginning of environmentalism here."

A wildlife biologist, Rauf Ali (b.1954-d.2016), was born in a business family and spent his early years in Agra and Mumbai. He spent much time outdoors on bird watching with his grand-uncle, Salim Ali, the renowned ornithologist. Rauf Ali joined BITS Pilani as an undergraduate to major in biology and pursued a doctorate from the University of Bristol. He was one of the first Indians to complete PhD in wildlife biology in India. He worked at the Anthropology Department, Harvard University, Smithsonian Institute (Virginia, USA), and Biological Sciences Department at Mahidol University, 1983-86. He joined as Professor at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Pondicherry Central University, 1987, and was instrumental in the planning and development of the Masters programme in ecology. He was an outstanding teacher and mentor.

As a pioneer of ecological studies in India, he played an important role in the development of environmental conservation and ecological sciences in India. He set up the Development Alternatives (DA) in Palani Hills in 1990 and was the founder of the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning (FERAL) in Pondicherry in 1997. With his keen involvement in research on the state of environment in Andaman and Nicobar, many necessary projects were started in 1999. His work and contribution to the conservation of Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) is notable. He was associated with several workshops and studies here and played an advisory role in the management of KMTR and was involved in the restoration of Shenkottai Gap forests.

He wrote his memoirs Running Away from Elephants: The Adventures of a Wildlife Biologist (published posthumously, 2018).

About the Collection: The papers of Rauf Ali comprise correspondence with ecologists, forest officials, students and friends; several articles and research papers on ecological conservation; and handwritten notes/notebooks and drafts. There are research notes on Andaman and Nicobar, and papers on his work in Palani Hills, Western Ghats, Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve and the Shenkottai Gap. The collection also contains some issues of rare journals, FERAL annual reports, and several volumes of Journal of Bombay Natural History Society. The collection is important for the study of the development of ecology and environmental sciences in India and its relevance to the conservation of natural resources and habitats. (Catalogue available)

Donor: Jayashree Ratnam
Acquisition: 2017