View Full Version : The voice of the voiceless wild:a tribute to m.krishnan

Saktipada Panigrahi
11-08-2012, 03:17 PM
LAST night I had a dream.I heard an eternal voice.I was listening to the deliberations in a meeting held to demarcate the boundary of a Tiger Reserve.
*"Please tell me frankly whether you want the tigers to thrive in the proposed reserve or merely add one more name to glitter in the list?"-the naturalist-member asked.
"We sincerely want the habitat to flourish with good tiger population."-the Chairperson replied.
"Fine.Then where is the bottleneck in adding only 26.50 sq.km to the proposed boundary? It is the best sambar habitat."
(The man has scanned the area for four days,stayed on the machan for three nights,drawn sketch, map, ready with estimates of prey and predator.)
"We have already agreed, in principle, for an area of 450 sq.km.There are enough chitals, wild pigs and other prey species."
"Sambar is a much bigger prey, liked by the tiger most.The lake has aquatic plant and grass, sambhars feed on the same.With increased level of protection, when the tiger density will grow, there will be lesser dispersal and man-animal conflict if sambar habitat is included."
"Oh! I was not briefed about this."
The meeting was adjourned for further deliberations on the subject in the next meeting.*

Within the Indian Board of Wildlife or in the Steering Commitee on Project Tiger, M.Krishnan's voice was the voice of the forest. A very few people know that without his presence, many of the Tiger Reserves, National Parks and sanctuaries would never have come into existence or come up with such boundaries that wild life would have ceased to exist by now. His contribution for Bandipur, other places in South India and Ranthambhore was remarkable.

He was our great teacher on nature. Nature came first for him before anything else including photography. He had amazing power of observation. I may touch upon some of the minute observations he made during his lifelong study of wilderness.
A Langur when closely watched may draw foilage of the tree to hide his face. The Langur leaving the safety of tree and descending to the ground may be for its desire for concealment as an escape where it runs the risk of being overtaken by the predator.

Chital hinds talk to one another in a low mewling voice when they do not see each other. When a pack of wild dogs, the most dreaded predator of our jungles, is on prowl upon Chital, no alarm call may be heard.
When modern telemetry was not discovered, Krishnan made specific mention about presence of 'infrasound communication' between the elephants. A Tusker in musth often carries clay to cause free outflow of musth from temporal glands by goring, he also observed.

While studying behaviour of Sambar, he recorded that it enjoys basking near slowly burning log without flame in preference to scorching sun.
That Bommakka (the bold female buffalo having blind right eye) was attacked by the tiger leaping in from right side causing deep wound on lelt hip, did not escape his acute observation.
When his jeep fell into a nullah,a tiger appeared and started encircling his jeep and after sometime all on a sudden it disappeared. Krishnan told his driver when it was all quiet that the rescue jeep is on the way and the tiger with its infinitely sharper hearing sense already heard it.

Legendary naturalist, photographer, conservator and wild life expert, Madhaviah Krishnan was born on June 30,1912. He was awarded Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship for ecological mammalian survey of penninsular India. He received PadmaShri award. About two thousand articles were written by him. His column "Country Notebook" in The Statesman, Kolkata which begun in 1950 (now being republished again) ran continuously for 45 years till Feb 18,1996, the day he died. The accurate text that accompanied pictures/sketches mesmerised young and old alike for decades. The most objective assessment was made by E.P.Gee when he said that 'AS A NATURALIST HE HAS NO EQUAL.' Except for a few initial years of working in princely state of Sandur, he happily remained a freelancer all throughout his life.



#Indebtedness:The Statesman,Kolkata

Mrudul Godbole
11-08-2012, 10:03 PM
Beautifully written article of a great naturalist. I wish he had been here, he would have certainly taken very solid steps to improve the sad state of wildlife and wilderness in this country. Thanks for sharing.

Sabyasachi Patra
12-08-2012, 01:41 PM
I have no words to describe this great naturalist. When I was in class 4th, my father had asked me to read his columns in Statesman. Such was his writing that it could appeal to the adults as well as to the kids.

His observations are so minute and accurate, that I wonder how much time he would have spent and it indicates his love for all the species. Photographers from this generation who are in a mad rush to only photograph tigers should take a cue from Shri M. Krishnan. If our biologists, who often only focus on the species they are researching and remain completely oblivious to the other species around them as well as to the general deterioration of the forests can also draw inspiration from him.

He had excellent control over the science of photography. He had built his own camera titled "superponderosa" and clicked the finest of images, so as to prompt E.P. Gee (the famous planter and naturalist who used the latest leica and other cameras) to say "Every Hair" must be his motto, for his pictures show the finest detail of the coats of gaur, sambar, chital and the link, and every wrinkle on the skin of a wild elephant." In sharp contrast, today the photographers cannot imagine getting a sharp image without an L series lens and even after buying the latest lens our photographers need to sharpen the images in photoshop. That speaks volumes about the difference between him and today's photographers.

In today's world when every tiger is branded a maneater and sent to a zoo or every elephant is termed as rogue, Krishnan is known to have used his phenomenal knowledge of elephants to save the life of a so called rogue tusker. In Jaldapara, he had gone close to the tusker in musth while it was drinking water and shot photographs and came back. He was within a short distance and the elephant could have chased him down if it so wanted. This proved that the elephant was not rogue as Krishnan could know it well from its body language and it saved the life of the tusker from being killed by the forest officials.

Who has such knowledge today? Personally I feel sad that I don't see any "heroes" around. All of my heroes have gone to their heavenly abode. May we continue to seek inspiration from his writings and his images.

PS: I photographed his published portrait and uploaded here.

28-08-2012, 06:24 PM
M. Krishnan was a great naturalist and a photographer par excellence. His articles and photographs are a treat, rather difficult to emulate. He was so meticulous and prompt that for several years he got his article to THE STATESMAN from Madras to Calcutta right on time through the ordinary P&T postal system. So much for our fast and quick systems of present day communication, when we fail to meet deadlines. When asked by the proud 'green thumb' wife of the IISc Director about how he liked the beautiful evergreen campus of IISc, Bangalore he was quick to quip that there were more exotic trees than indigenous ones. His language capabilities were beyond question and he did not like Editors changing or editing his sentences.
I wish we had more of his ilk around.