The hunter who became the Birdman of India
Sálim Moizuddin Abdul Ali (12 November 1896 - 20 June 1987)
Sálim Moizuddin Abdul Ali (12 November 1896 – 20 June 1987), commonly referred to as the Birdman of India, was the first person to conduct systematic surveys of birds from across India. These surveys became the basis for several guidebooks describing the habits of Indian birds, including “The Book of Indian Birds” and the “Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan” (co-written with American ornithologist Sidney Dillon Ripley). Sálim Ali’s lifelong interest in birds began in his childhood, and existed alongside his youthful enthusiasm for hunting. While working as a clerk at the museum of the Bombay Natural History Society, Sálim Ali published a research article on the activities of the weaver bird that launched his career as an ornithologist. A champion for conservation, Sálim Ali also garnered support to save the then 100-year-old natural history society, created the Bharatpur bird sanctuary, and advocated against a hydroelectric project that would have destroyed the Silent Valley National Park. Sálim Ali was recognised with the Padma Bhushan in 1958 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1976, India's third and second highest civilian honours respectively. Several species of birds, a fruit bat, and a dwarf gecko, as well as bird sanctuaries and institutions, have been named after him.