A life set aside for wildlife

Living his passion as a wildlife biologist, Dr. Chelmala Srinivasulu talks about his experiences and journey so far

By Author  |  Published: 16th Jun 2019  12:47 amUpdated: 15th Jun 2019  5:08 pm
Photo: Hrudayanand

Each one of us has passion for something but making a career out of it requires sheer determination, dedication and hard work. From a desire to become an elephant mahout to the discovery of new species, here is a story of a teacher who is living his passion of wildlife biologist.

An assistant professor at Zoology department in the University College of Science, Osmania University (OU) Dr. Chelmala Srinivasulu has been fascinated by nature and wildlife since his childhood. And he went onto pursue it to become a wildlife biologist.

Attributing his passion for wildlife to his army family background, Srinivasulu says “Passion of understanding wildlife and bio-diversity was ingrained within me from my early childhood. As my father was in the Indian Army, we visited several army bases that were closer to forest areas. I grew up watching birds and animals, and my father used to explain to me how birds communicate. Understanding nature gives greater wisdom in life. This made me passionate about wildlife and biodiversity.”

The assistant professor and his team of researchers have documented 9,000 various species in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh (AP) and about 3,800 to 4,000 species in Telangana. He and his team have the credit of discovering two species of spiders, three species of lizards and two sub-species of mammals.

His name is associated and directly authored for three new species of organisms including Thomisus Telanganaensis (Telangana Crab Spider) which was a new species to science. It was named commemorating the formation of Telangana State. Aditya Day Gecko, a lizard was another discovery by his son Aditya and it was named after him. Srinivasulu and team also discovered another new species of Lizard-Hampi Rock Gecko near Karimnagar.

“The potential of discovering new species in the State are high as many areas are still unexplored. We are encouraging students to take up research in botany and zoology, and help us in documenting unknown species,” he shares.

Srinivasulu’s fascination for wildlife, nature and bio-diversity took a turn when his biology teacher spotted spark in him during his school days.

“Seeing the intensity of my passion for understanding the nature and my school biology teacher advised me to pursue biology as in his terms I was good at remembering biological names. So, I took Biology seriously and wanted to become wildlife biologist,” he reveals.

On his school days, he says “I always thought to run away from the society and get into jungles and explore nature. At that time, I wanted to become an elephant mahout and take foreign tourists to show the beauty of India jungles. But after passing class XII and started graduation, I realized the importance of the degree. My wife who was my friend during graduation days told me to follow both passion and education. I realized that she too was passionate about wildlife and biodiversity.”

Career-wise, his research work commenced after enrolling in the MSc programme in the OU. During this time, he surveyed birds on the varsity campus and recorded over 130 species. This survey now become baseline data to understand how avian diversity has changed with respect to habitat conditions. As part of the MSc dissertation, he studied Blackbuck at Mahavir Harina Vanasthali National Park while his PhD was on behavior and management of Deer species of India in captive and semi-captive conditions.

While people get petrified on seeing or hearing the bats, Srinivasulu has the rare distinction of doing research on these bats. In fact, Srinivaslu and his team members successfully managed to nudge the Karnataka government into initiating crucial steps to protect the extremely rare Kolar Roundleaf Bat.

“For post-doctoral studies, I took up an area that is ignored and people do not like i.e. bat studies. I and my partner decided to study bats and there was a niche available for us. While I started researching on the fruit bats and my wife did it on insectivorous bats,” he says.

On the teaching profession, he says that he was living his passion. “While doing research I realized that I am good at explaining things.  Once I was taking an informal class as a scientist at the University of Delhi for youngsters who were selected through a competition. They were allowed to stay with us for three days in the tents in the bio-diversity park that we created in Delhi. One student told me that I should be a teacher as I explain perfectly. And that particular episode gave me feeling that I should be standing in a classroom explaining facts and science to students,” he shares.

Recognising Srinivasulu’s extensive research work during his PhD, the International Union for Conversation of Nature had invited him to be a member of the species survival commission. He was also invited by the government in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh to join the expert committee on AP state Bio-diversity Board. Presently, he is part of the Telangana State Bio-diversity Board.  The assistant professor authored several books and published papers too.

The OU faculty who is currently working on the effect of climate change on bats of central and western India says that if not wildlife biologist, he planned to take up photography or become a good chef.