Tuesday, March 28

Romulus Whitaker Who Built The First Snake Garden

Romulus Whitaker is an wildlife cosnservationist and the founder of Madras snake Park.

He was born on 23 May 1943 in New York City in United State. His father is an army of the United states And, his mother, Doris Norden was an artist. After his parents divorced, his mother married Rama Chattopadhyay. After the birth of his sister Nina, his mother and his stepfather moved to Bombay (now in Mumbai) in 1951. In 1960, He continued his education at the Kodaikanal International school. During the Vietnam era, he was drafted into the US Army. A short career in the merchant Navy brought him back to India. He married Zai Whitaker in1974, with whom he has two sons, Nikhil and Samir.

romulus whitaker
source: bookmyshow.com

Whitaker is a naturalized Indian citizen. After a divorce, he married again and lives with his wife, Janaki Lenin, in Chengalpattu town in Tamil Nadu.

When he was five years old, he was used to visiting the field and forests of New York. Whitaker and his mother lived in a house which is 300 years old. Hoosick was always covered with ice. When the spring came then ice was melt and with that lots of animals came there. 

Once upon a time, during playing, he found a small in below a stone. His friend wanted to kill that small snake that’s why they began to peck. But  Whitaker took that snake in his home. His sister was very happy to see that snake. After that, wherever he saw any snake, he took it home. Due to his sharp hunter sense, he soon became adept at catching snakes.  In this way, he had a good collection of snakes. If his mother called her friends at home then they took interest in his collection of snakes. 

When he was seven years old when his mother moved to Mumbai with his stepfather Ram. And then he had a new world of snakes, crocodiles, lizards, and many more. He used to see domestic animals in Crawford market. He could see small snakes, beautiful crocodiles, etc.  Then he began to go in Natural History Society and gradually he moved towards in the way of Nature’s scientists. In boarding school, his pet snake lived under his bed.

romulus whitaker
source: ecologise.in

He was lucky because that he was never met with any dangerous snake till thirteen years. Once he accidentally caught the Russell Viper snake in a butterfly net. But luckily, nothing happened to him.

He went to America for his college study. He did nothing special in his study but he got a job in Miami snake garden. At that time, this was the biggest center for the production of snake poison. People called this place “sarp”.

Ten years later, Romulus Whitaker was catching King Kobra with his hands in South India. Between this, he had to join the American army for the Vietnam war.  During the war, he spent most of his year, to catch rattlesnakes in Texas and Arizona. Once he became a little careless and the snake of the Prairie Rattler species bit him in the index of his right hand. He stayed in the hospital for two weeks.  His finger still a kind of crippled. This makes him remember that he should take care next time.

After coming to India, he decided to establish a snake garden. He wanted a deep study of his interest in reptiles and he was always attracted by their beautiful color and their moving style. He was excited with reptiles instead of birds and mammals. Because he thought that birds and mammals are the good food of snakes,

romulus whitaker
source: sanctuarynaturefoundation.org

Romulus Whitaker began to write articles in newspapers and then in magazines. And then, he began to write some interesting facts about reptiles in the magazines of  Bombay Natural History Society.  Simultaneously, he began to find a proper place for opening the snake garden. He got permission for opening the first snake garden of India in  Madras in the courtyard of Guindy  National  Park in 1970  (now in Chennai).

Irula tribe who lived near Madras became his friend and his guide.  They had experience in catching snakes like cobra, Krait, Russell viper, and saw-scaled viper. What he learned with themselves, he never learned from any college.

romulus whitaker
source: smithsonianassociate.org

He was traveling continuously for catching snakes. He went to Rajasthan and West Bengal to increase his collection of snakes so that people can see the variety of snakes in the snake gardens. Once he went to the Angube area of Karnataka. That forest was hot and moist. He caught a king cobra. He was 12 feet long and it was difficult to adjust in his bag but still, he adjusted.

romulus whitaker
source: indulgexpress.com

It was not enough to study to catching snakes for him. He wanted to do something for crocodiles. In 1975, he opened a crocodile bank in Mahabalipuram in madras with the help of his friends. Earlier in the bank, there was only one dozen snake but later their number increased from five thousand. Also, ten different species were present there. This bank is not only a production center for crocodiles, but it is also the basis for many conservation projects in many parts of the country, including the Andaman islands.

romulus whitaker
source: medium.com

The habit of showing and telling people about reptiles led him to make a documentary film.  First, he made a low-budget film “snakebite”. That film tells about precautions from biting snakes and treatment. National Geographical television helped his films. Whitaker and his friend made a film “king cobra” which is based on the natural life of cobra.

romulus whitaker
source: goodreads.com

Romulus Whitaker is a member of:- 

  • The advisory committee and the editorial board of the Bombay natural history society
  • Correspondent of the society for the study of amphibians and reptiles, USA
  • Advisor of Irula Tribal women’s welfare society
  • Afforestation project
  • Member of the center for science and education, New Delhi


  • In 2005, he won the Whitley Award for his work
  • In 2008, he became the associate laureate in Rolex Award
  • 2018, he was awarded the Padma Sri by the government of India for his work done in the field of wildlife conservation.
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