Rom Whitaker

Romulus Whitaker was born in New York City in 1943 and came to India in 1951 with his mother Doris and step-father Rama, son of Kamaladevi and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya. Rom set up India’s first reptile park, the Madras Snake Park in 1969 outside of Chennai city. In 1971 it shifted to Guindy Deer Park in the city and had over 10 lakhs visitors. In 1976 Rom and his former wife Zai Whitaker set up the Madras Crocodile Bank/Centre for Herpetology, now India’s largest reptile conservation, research and education center.

Over the years, along with like-minded colleagues, Rom set up the Irula Snake-catchers Cooperative in Tamil Nadu, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team, the Gharial Conservation Alliance base on the Chambal River in Uttar Pradesh and the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station in Karnataka. Rom has published hundreds of scientific and popular articles and produced and presented 25 documentary films. His accolades include Emmy Award, Whitley Fund for Nature Award, Rolex Award for Enterprise, Peter Scott Award for Conservation Merit, Salim Ali Award for Nature Conservation, and Padma Shri.

Photo credits: Cedric Bregnard

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