K.S. Lavkumar | The death of a birdman
With Lavkumar’s death, a glorious chapter of Indian ornithology has come to an end. The greats have all gone
It was not my privilege to be a great friend or confidant of K.S. Lavkumar, though I spent several evenings with him discussing nature (or the desecration thereof) in general and birds in particular. And where his years of experience shone though his measured speech. It was with his passing away on the 2 March, in Rajkot that I realized that it marked the end of an era. That a glorious chapter of Indian ornithology had come to an end. The greats had all gone.
Born into the illustrious family of nature lovers in the erstwhile princely state of Jasdan, he was educated first in Rajkumar College (where he later taught) in Rajkot and then St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. In 1976 he joined the World Wide Fund for Nature with the specific job of conceptualizing and creating courses to enthuse the youth in matters of environment and conservation.
His pioneering work is still valid several decades later and form the basis of environmental education today. In 1984 he took charge as director of the Nature Discovery Centre of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE). He also collaborated with his peer R.S. Dharmakumarsinhji and produced the book “Sixty Indian Birds” in 1981.
He was a close associate of Salim Ali, Humayun Abdulali and Zafar Futehally and had a productive relationship with the Bombay Natural History Society, for which he held several camps for young naturalists. During the 1950s and 1960s, he was a keen member of the Delhi Bird Club co-founded, inter alia, by Indira Gandhi and whose members then included some illustrious names like Usha Ganguly, Peter Jackson, Malcolm McDonald and Horace Alexander.
Lavkumar spent most of his later years either in Rajkot or in his stunning house, Hinglaj Farm, on the river Beas in Himachal Pradesh. Till the end, he held camps there for novice birdwatchers.
He was awarded several prestigious awards, including The Salim Ali-Loke Wan Tho Lifetime Award for Excellence in Ornithology for his pioneering work in ornithology and on the Nanda Devi National Park. In 2004, he was awarded the Venu Menon Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was my great honour to give away the Delhi Bird Lifetime Achievement Award to him a few years back. That was the last time I met him though we kept in constant touch through letters, emails and phone calls. I wish I knew him better and had spent more time learning from his unique knowledge and experience.
Bikram Grewal is an author, ornithologist and conservationist.
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