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Remembering Asir Jawahar Thomas Johnsingh: A Pioneer in Wildlife Conservation

Renowned conservationist Dr. Asir Jawahar Thomas Johnsingh, pioneer in wildlife research and policy, passes, leaving lasting legacy.
Indian Masterminds Stories

The world of wildlife conservation bid farewell to one of its brightest stars on June 7th, 2024, as Dr. Asir Jawahar Thomas (AJT) Johnsingh passed away. His departure left an irreplaceable void, yet his legacy of dedication and innovation continues to inspire generations of conservationists.

His work has left an indelible mark on our understanding and preservation of nature. His research has focussed on the Asian elephant, Asiatic lion, goral, Himalayan ibex, Nilgiri tahr, Sloth bear, grizzed giant squirrel and Nilgiri langur.

Born on October 14, 1945, in the picturesque town of Nanguneri, nestled within Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli District, Johnsingh’s affinity for nature was evident from his early years. He embarked on his academic journey at Madras Christian College, Chennai, where his passion for wildlife and ecology began to bloom.

Johnsingh carved his niche in the realm of conservation as a pioneering vertebrate ecologist, becoming the first Indian scientist to delve into the study of free-ranging animals. His groundbreaking research on the elusive Dhole in Bandipur National Park marked a milestone, shedding light on the intricate dynamics of predator-prey relationships in India’s wilderness.

Young Asir Jawahar Thomas Johnsingh

Following his academic pursuits, Johnsingh’s quest for knowledge led him to diverse landscapes, from the classrooms of Ayya Nadar Janaki Ammal College, Sivakasi, to the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. However, his heart remained tethered to his homeland, and in 1981, he returned to India to embark on a remarkable journey with the Bombay Natural History Society.

In 1985, Johnsingh found his true calling at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, where he assumed leadership roles that would shape the future of wildlife conservation in the country. As the head of the faculty of wildlife sciences and later as the esteemed Dean, his vision and expertise propelled the institute to the forefront of conservation research and education.

Throughout his illustrious career, Johnsingh’s contributions transcended academia, as he donned the mantle of an advisor to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, shaping policy frameworks that safeguarded India’s rich biodiversity. His literary prowess mirrored his passion for the wild, with seminal works like “On Jim Corbett’s Trail and Other Tales from Tree-tops” and “Field Days: A Naturalist’s Journey Through South and Southeast Asia,” becoming touchstones for aspiring conservationists.

Johnsingh’s accolades were as numerous as they were prestigious, culminating in the revered Padma Shri award and the coveted $100,000 ABN AMRO Award, which underscored his unparalleled dedication to the cause of wildlife preservation.

As the sun set on June 7th, 2024, Dr. Asir Jawahar Thomas Johnsingh bid farewell to a world he had devoted his life to protecting. Yet, amidst the sorrow of his passing, his legacy stands as a beacon of hope, guiding future generations towards a future where humans and wildlife harmoniously coexist. In his honor, let us continue his noble crusade, ensuring that his vision of a wilder, more sustainable world endures for posterity.

He resided in Bangalore and served as Honorary Scientific Advisor for WWF-India.

The Wildlife Institute of India expressed profound sorrow at the passing of Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, a genuine pioneer in wildlife conservation.


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