Birder, naturalist and writer, Zafar Futehally was born in 1920 into a business family of Bombay. He grew up in Andheri, then one of the greenest areas of the city, and went on to join the family trade. However, it was with Salim Ali, the famed ornithologist also known as the ‘Birdman of India’, that Zafar found his true calling.
Zafar accompanied Salim Ali on his expeditions and helped him ring birds, collect specimens and take notes. On these field trips, he came in contact with some of the world’s foremost naturalists and conservationists—Dillon Ripley, Loke Wan Tho, Richard Fitter and Sir Peter Scott amongst others. These associations helped Zafar develop a nuanced, far-ranging understanding of ornithology as well as of the natural world. This, together with his diplomatic skills, made him a vital consensus-builder on matters relating to conservation.
Zafar Futehally was one of the pioneers of the conservation movement in India and played a key role in transforming it from a fringe concern of the middle-class to a matter of national importance. Zafar held key posts in all the important conservation organizations and initiatives in India and abroad—BNHS, IUCN, WWF–India and Project Tiger. Witty, humble and deeply thoughtful, The Song of the Magpie Robin is a vibrant portrait of a man of principle, who spent his entire life striving to find a balance between development and nature conservation.
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