A J T Johnsingh

Lifetime Time Service Award (2005)

India desperately needs the right kind of heroes. In a world of crumbling values, our children need people they can look up to. For our Lifetime Service Award, we found just such a man, whose life has been devoted to the study and protection of wildlife and wild habitats. Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh is the quintessential wildlifer. He has been charged by elephants, has walked in tiger country and even risked death and injury from poachers in forests where he wanted to protect what others wanted to kill. A trekker, writer and scientist, he grew up in a small town in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, where his parents thought that outings were best had in the wild places that we now know as the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats.

During his formative years, a diet of Jim Corbett’s tales reinforced Johnsingh’s love for the outdoors. And people like J.C. Daniel and the legendary Dr. George Schaller were amongst his greatest influences. He did his doctoral thesis on dholes, the fabled wild dogs of the Indian jungle, but in the course of his life, he studied and worked for leopards, elephants, mountain goats, mahseer fish and the endangered Asiatic lion. The first tiger he ever saw was when he was on foot in the forests of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, but he says he never perceived any real threat in forests, except from humans. He has now retired after two decades spent with the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, an institution he helped shape. He has trained forest officers, wildlife managers and has guided students. One of his key contributions to conservation is that he helped train over 300 wildlife managers, many of whom now oversee Protected Areas in India and neighbouring countries. He has spent a lifetime devoted to endangered species and biodiversity conservation.