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Ravi Sankaran Papers

Identifier: MS-004


The collection contains the papers of Ravi Sankaran, predominantly research material including field notes, pre-prints, re-prints, publications, statistical data, graphs, maps and pamphlets on various species and ecosystems Lesser Floricans, Bengal Floricans, Great Indian Bustard, on the conservation of edible-nest Swiftlets, Nicobar megapodes and ecology of Andaman and Nicobar islands. It also contains his personal diaries, letters, post cards, certificate, bills and also digital material.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1985 - 2009



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Publication Rights

Copyright may not have been assigned to Archives at National Centre for Biological Sciences. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Archives at National Centre for Biological Sciences as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher. Most digital records – native or copies – are under copyright or under third party ownership, as mentioned in the item description. Material may only be reproduced for academic and non-commercial use, and only with the explicit permission of the record owners, as mentioned in the description for each item.


Ravi Sankaran was an ornithologist, biologist and an unconventional wildlife conservationist. He was born on 4th October 1963. At the age of 9, he was sent to Rishi Valley boarding school, where he completed his high school. He then joined the undergraduate program in Zoology at the Loyola College, Chennai. It was during this time that he developed a keen interest in Bustards, and went on to approach the most ambitious ongoing project on the same, at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

He is said to have walked in to the Hornbill House (where BNHS is located) on 25th March 1985 and met Asad Rahmani, who would later become one of his closest friend and mentor. Sankaran asked to work on the Florican project under Rahmani. In that year, he accompanied Rahmani as a junior field biologist on a project headed by Salim Ali. Sankaran visited the most prominent florican sites in North India – the Karera Bird Sanctuary, Dudhwa National Park and Sailana Florican Sanctuary. Sankaran spent the next four years of his life shifting between these three sites studying the display behaviour of the floricans, their habitat and mating behaviour. His field notes indicate that he used to sit on the machaans for hours every day in the hope of spotting a florican. The importance of grass size and height in the breeding habits of floricans made him study the types and extent of grass in the area. He slowly moved from the study of the species to the study of the species with respect to its environment and other contributing factors. He published various articles in the annual reports of BNHS about his research. He also studied the Swamp Deer, Red Jungle Fowl and other species during these years. In 1991, he completed his integrated M.Sc. and PhD by research in Zoology from the University of Bombay, Department of Field Ornithology, Bombay Natural History Society. His thesis was on the topic, ‘Some aspects of the breeding behaviour of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (J.F. Miller) and the Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis (Gmelin).’ That year, he visited the Desert National Park, Rajasthan, to study ecology with respect to the endangered fauna in the area.

It was during this time that a research centre based on the study of birds in the memory of the Birdman of India, Salim Ali, was being set up. Sankaran left BNHS to join Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural history (SACON) as a scientist. Though he left BNHS, he remained in close contact with Rahmani – whom he fondly called ‘ustaad’ – and other colleagues and continued to write articles for BNHS journals. At SACON, Sankaran took over more ambitious projects and gradually shifted from being a biologist to a conservationist. He carried out ecological studies in the Devi National Park and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He also went to the great Nicobar starting off with the Nicobar Megapode and other species as Narcondam Hornbill and the Edible-nest Swiftlets. During this time, his attention kept shifting between the mainland research on the floricans and the setting up of base camps on the islands for extended research and conservation. In the latter part of his stay in the Andamans, his major attention was taken by the Edible-nest Swiftlets whose nests were being extensively used for trade by the locals for their medicinal value. Sankaran, with close companionship by Alex, a native from Interview Island, devised a scientific and conservative method of nest harvesting that did not harm the birds and was economically feasible at the same time. This method relied completely on getting the locals in the conservation plan and taking their assistance for the same. It was a huge success as the number of the swiftlets increased by leaps and bounds. Sankaran’s efficiency in working with the locals of the area, his convincing power and his passion towards his work earned him the Nagaland project, based on Rhino conservation. He was made the Director of SACON in 2008. He was very ambitious about making SACON as one of the leading research and conservation centres in the world. In six months, he brought around major changes in the working and administration of the institute.

Sankaran and his wife, Rajyasri had their daughter, Yamini in 2005. According to his colleagues, Sankaran was a rational, secular, kind-hearted and curious human being with a peculiar sense of humour. His students averred that he often spoke his mind out and was sometimes intimidating around people. He was spontaneous in his actions and brought his ideas into action straight away, without giving them much thought. He also had an unusual sense of dressing and used to braid his hair in pleats in the later part of his life. He was said to be fond of smoking with his pipe and drinking coffee, and one could always spot him doing either in his house in Coimbatore – which was a welcome home for anyone who wanted to stay. Sankaran died of a cardiac arrest in January 2009 while at his farmhouse on the outskirts of CoimbatoreHis wife, Rajyasri, and daughter, Yamini, died in a car accident in 2010.


5.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Archives at NCBS, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore -560065


This collection was handed over to the archives at ncbs by the scientist's mother at her redidence in Chennai.

Condition Description

The collection is in a good condition except a few field notes infested with insects.

Ravi Sankaran Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives at NCBS Repository

National Centre for Biological Sciences - Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Bangalore Karnataka 560065 India
+9180 6717 6010
+9180 6717 6011