Thursday, October 5


Raman Sukumar who got his doctorate in 1985 for the study of Asian elephants, is an Indian ecologist. He has the special interest on the study of the relation between elephants and human.


He was born on 3 April, 1955 in Madras (now Chennai) in India. His graduation (1977) and post graduation (1979) was from University of Madras. In 1985, he obtained a PhD from the Indian Institute of science.  


Early  Life of Raman Sukumar

When Raman Sukumar was a child, even his parents did not know what he will do in his future. Because his interests was in many fields, like he was a book lover. The reason was that his grandfather had a book store. He used to spent many hours in his grandfather’s library. After reaching high school he realized the beauty of nature and organism. In those days, there was domination of Space exploration and man took his first steps on the moon. That time, whole world was scared  about the destruction of earth because of pathetic condition of environment. Raman thought that if people will use the limited resources prudently then it will be a big problem for the world.

Raman sukumar

Raman had interest in Science and he wanted to study in the field of resources. For this reason, he studied Vivekanand College of Madras in Botany. He was lucky because he was in Madras, the big city of south India. There was a national park in the middle of city, Guindy National Park where, there is some natural forest. He spent his most time with R. Selvakumar who was studying biology. They went on many trip of  forest together. Selvakumar had more affection with nature and he was lost in the world of birds and animals. Because of him, Raman’s work was so easy and he began to enjoy his work.


Raman Sukumar was affected by a music of a movie “Hatari” which is based on a small elephant’s gait. When he got chance for the first programme on radio, he started with that music.

In September 1976 Raman’s class went on a botanical tour. They went in Mudumalai sanctuary of Tamilnadu which is famous for herd of elephant. Suddenly a car stopped near him and a well-known face came and said, “what is you doing here son?”  He was the famous photographer Siddharth Buch and one of the teacher of Raman. He asked Raman if he saw some elephants. On saying no, he made Raman sit in car and saw elephant together.

Raman Sukumar


In 1979 he took admission in Doctoral programme of Environmental Science in Bengalore. Madhav  Gadgil had started the educational  programme before environmental science. When there was the time for choose the subject for research, Madhav suggested some problems in which there was suggestion for the study of struggle between elephants and human. It was good for Raman because he wanted to study on big mammals.

Madhav explained that in some areas, herd of elephant enters  into the field, eat crops  and sometimes kill people. There was also one thing with this, that people capture natural forests and kills elephants for smuggling ivory. There was never been happened that someone studied the detailed relation between people and elephants, neither in Asia nor in Africa. Then in this  form, it will be the unique study  itself. It will be important from the view point of conservation, this is very important to solve this problem for the long life of elephants.

In this way, he began to start the study about the elephants of south India. He is studying about elephants , taking pictures. He has seen elephants making love, playing, reproducing, fighting, playing a role of parents, sleeping in mud, enjoying the life and also dying. Elephants can be very entertaining and they can be very dangerous too. It makes him satisfaction to see but it can be addiction to study about elephants.


After two decades, he had been studying thousands of elephants but still he stands when he sees elephant in anywhere.  He says,” If tiger is the soul of forests then elephant is the body of forests. Any one can feel the dominance of elephant in earth. Still there is no hurry in the life of elephant beacause when you see them, you will feel that you are enjoying a movie of slow version.  For understanding this mesmerizing animal, one has to spend many years in forest. Every moment, every day, every month, every year you get to learn a new character of his nature.“ (Source: published on National Book Trust, India)


In this way Raman Sukumar studied about, why is there a conflict situation between people and elephant today? Now Raman Sukumar is a teacher of Centre for Ecological Studies in Indian Institute Of Science. He is the chairman of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group of IUCN and He is the unpaid director of Asian Elephant research and conservation centre. He wrote books which is listed below:

  • Elephant Days and Nights
  • The Asian Elephant: Ecology and Management
  • The Living Elephants
  • The story of Asia’s Elephants

Besides this, he helped to design the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the first of its kind in India. In 2006, he was awarded the International Cosmos Prize, Japan. He is the first Indian who received this award. Also he was admired by the prime minister of India for contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He got many awards and fellowships in different countries like USA, Italy, UK, Japan, India.

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