Anwaruddin Choudhury MA, Ph.D, D.Sc, is an Indian naturalist, noted for his expertise on the fauna of North-East India.
Choudhury is an ornithologist, mammalogist, artist, civil servant, photographer and author. He is recognized by many as an eminent naturalist and conservationist studying wildlife throughout North-East India and adjacent areas. He is the Honorary Chief Executive of the Rhino Foundation for nature in North East India and was Deputy Commissioner (District Magistrate) of Baksa and Lakhimpur districts in Assam. Currently he is a Secretary with the government of Assam. Known as the "Birdman of Assam", he was the first to produce books on the birds of different northeastern states including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. His studies have contributed enormously to the conservation and awareness in North-East India. He is the author of 21 books and more than 600 articles and scientific papers. Dr Choudhury is recognised as one of India's well known wildlife experts and conservationists. In particular he has spent more than two and half decades following the fortunes of North-East India's wildlife.
Born in Meghalaya in 1959, Choudhury initially studied science but received his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Geography from the B.Borooah College, Guwahati in 1981, and went on to Gauhati University to obtain his Master of Arts degree in Geography in 1985. He obtained his Ph.D. on primates in 1989. He became only the second person to get D.Sc from Gauhati University, which was on mammals in 2008. He married Bilkis Begum Mazumdar in 1994. A daughter, Dona, was born two and half years later in 1997. Later a son, Dino, was born in 2005. Choudhury took up interest in wildlife since unknown childhood and continued with his love of wildlife and nature conservation. From 1983, Choudhury is an Assam Civil Service officer holding various important posts such as Executive Magistrate, Research Officer, Sub-divisional Officer (civil), Project Director of Rural Development, Project Coordinator of Shifting Cultivation control, Joint Secretary of Environment & Forests, Tourism; Director of Tea, Deputy Commissioner & District Magistrate and Secretary. He was also empanelled for the post of Vice Chancellor twice.
Success in art
He has artistic talent, which; however, was not inherited from anybody. He had his first exhibition in Guwahati in 1975. Choudhury has published his artworks in various Indian and international journals, magazines and periodicals including a cover of the Oriental Bird Club Bulletin published from U.K. He has also profusely illustrated his books with his art work.
Casual bird watching took a serious scientific approach in early 1980s. He started writing for popular magazines and started a regular weekly column as ‘Birds of Assam’ in an English daily The Sentinel published from Guwahati. The publications in local newspapers in 1980s brought him recognition in the field of ornithology across Assam but his writings in international scientific journals and his books brought him recognition in the field of ornithology far and wide. Choudhury undertook systematic bird surveys in different pockets of North East India. He rediscovered a rare galliform species, Manipur Bush Quail in Assam after its last record 75 years ago. He has made several new country records for India and Bhutan. He is the Coordinator of Asian Mid-winter Waterfowl Census for Assam and was also coordinator for the North East India. He is also the State Coordinator of the Indian Bird Conservation Network.
In 1986, he traveled to North Cachar Hills (renamed (Dima Hasao district) to start a two-decade long research on primates that covered the entire North-East India in later years. Little was known about the life of these simians in the wild until he started his writings on them. He has made several country records for India and Bhutan. But the most significant are discovery and description of two flying squirrels, new to science in 2007 and 2009. These new flying squirrels have been named by him Petaurista mechukaensis (=nigra). and mishmiensis. He also discovered a new species of primate but identified it as a subspecies of Macaca thibetana. This was later on described by other scientists as Macaca munzala. He also revealed for the first time that the Stump-tailed and Pig-tailed macaques are restricted by the Brahmaputra towards west of their range. His authoritative works on the wild water buffalo have been published recently as the first monograph on this endangered species.
The Rhino Foundation
He is the founder Chief Executive of the Rhino Foundation for nature in North East India, a leading NGO of India since 1995. His pioneering work in conservation also contributed greatly to the awareness in North East India. His stewardship of the Rhino Foundation for nature in North East India as well as his other activities was recognised and he was appointed a member of the State Board for Wildlife, the highest policy making official body on wildlife in 2003 by the Government of Assam. The Government of Assam has also made him members of two other high official bodies, the State Wetland Steering Committee in 2003 and State Pollution Control Board in 2008. Prior to that the Government of India made the Rhino Foundation for nature in North East India a member of the Indian Board for Wildlife in 1999. He was one of early members of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly called the World Wildlife Fund), and the Bombay Natural History Society in North-East India (since 1981) and has actively contributed towards their activities in this region including wildlife surveys, awareness and identification of Important Bird Areas.
Dr Choudhury is a member of as many as nine IUCN/SSC/BLI Specialist Groups, which in itself is a major conservation achievement. He is a member of IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant, Asian Rhino, Asian Wild Cattle, Bear, Cat and Small Carnivore Specialist Groups, and IUCN/SSC/BLI Waterbird and Galliformes Specialist Groups. In addition he is a member of IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group’s South Asian Network and was also with IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group. In the 1980s and 1990s, Choudhury went to the remote Himalayan region in Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan, and to the mountainous regions of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, which are occupied by people of the Tibetan-Burman and Tibeto-Chinese ethnicity and who heavily supplement their income by hunting wildlife (except Bhutan). Choudhury was there to study the vanishing wildlife as well as motivating the people for conservation with various amounts of success.
Choudhury’s work in conservation has resulted in the protection of a large number of areas in the North-East India, more particularly Assam. Due to his work, at least 12 wildlife sanctuaries have been established, including Bordoibam-Bilmukh, Pani-Dihing, Barail, Bherjan-Borajan-Podumoni, Dihing-Patkai, Hollongapar Gibbon, Nambor-Doigrung, Nambor, East Karbi Anglong, North Karbi Anglong, Amchang and Marat Longri; and two Elephant Reserves, the Dhansiri-Lungding and Dihing-Patkai. He was also instrumental in upgrading Dibru-Saikhowa into a national park, inclusion of Laokhowa and Burhachapori Sanctuaries in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve and declaration of the White-winged Wood Duck as the State Bird of Assam. Interestingly, he is among very few fortunate scientists who could implement their own scientific/conservation recommendations later on as a bureaucrat. Many of the above have been officially notified and gazetted by himself as the Joint Secretary to the Government in Environment & Forest Department. He was also a key member of the Asam Forest Policy Drafting Committee.
His writings in 1980s also resulted in shelving of a railway project through the southern edge of world-famous Kaziranga National Park and World Heritage Site.
As a bureaucrat, Anwaruddin Choudhury was influential in ensuring a rural district of Assam to start e-governance giving transparency to the rural poor. He also took active part and partially succeeded in reducing social murders in the name of witch-hunting in remote areas such as Baksa district at the edge of Eastern Himalaya in Assam. Dr. Choudhury's influence helped save many protected areas in North-East India from environmentally destructive developmental projects. The diversion of a National Highway from Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve is a recent example. he always spoken against such projects including mega dams.
Publications and Writing
Anwaruddin Choudhury has written 21 books and monographs on the birds and mammals of North East India based on his own studies, and supported by long-term observations (list below). He has also written more than 600 articles and scientific papers about wildlife and conservation. Nearly three decades, Choudhury’s field research has helped shape wildlife protection efforts in India more particularly in North-East India. Many of Choudhury’s books continue to be references for the study of birds and mammals in North-East India. He is the author of:
- Checklist of the Birds of Assam, Guwahati: Sofia Pub. (1990)
- A Naturalist in Karbi Anglong, Guwahati: Gibbon Books (1993,2009)
- Checklist of the Mammals of Assam, Guwahati: Gibbon Books (1994)
- Survey of White-winged Wood Duck and Bengal Florican, Guwahati: Rhino Foundation (1996)
- Checklist of the Mammals of Assam, rev.2nd edn.,Guwahati: Gibbon Books (1997)
- The Birds of Assam, Guwahati: Gibbon Books & WWF (2000)
- A Pocket Guide to the Birds of Nagaland, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (2003)
- Birds of Kaziranga National Park : a checklist, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (2003)
- The Mammals of Arunachal Pradesh, New Delhi: Regency Pub.(2004)
- Kaziranga : wildlife in Assam, Delhi: Rupa & Co.(2004)
- A Pocket Guide to the Birds of Arunachal Pradesh, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (supported by OBC, UK; 2006)
- Birds of Manas National Park, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (2006)
- Birds of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (2007)
- A Pocket Guide to the Birds of Mizoram, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (supported by OBC, UK; 2008)
- A Naturalist in Karbi Anglong, rev. 2nd edn., Guwahati: Gibbon Books (2009)
- The Vanishing herds: the wild water buffalo, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (supported by COA,Taiwan and CEPF/ATREE).
- The secrets of wild Assam, Guwahati: Bhabani Books (2012)
- The threatened birds of Assam, Mumbai: BNHS & Oxford Univ. Press (supported by CEPF/ATREE and BirdLife Int., Cambridge)[jointly with A. R. Rahmani].
Technical Studies and Reports
- Primates of Assam : their Distribution, Habitat and Status. Ph.D. thesis. Gauhati Univ. (1989).
- A Report on Bird Survey in Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam, India. Report to the Oriental Bird Club, UK. (1994).
- Proposed Oil Field Nature Reserve, Digboi. The Rhino Foundation for Nature in NE India & WWF-India NE Region, Guwahati. (1996).
- Survey of Primates in some parts of eastern and central Assam. Final Report to ASTEC (Assam Science Tech. & Environment Council), Guwahati. (1996).
- A collaborative study on Gaurs (Bos gaurus) in North Bengal, West Bengal, India. with S. Bhattacharyya & G. Biswas).WWF-India Eastern Region, Calcutta. (1997).
- Survey of grasslands in some parts of central and southern Assam : to assess their bio-diversity & socio-economic problem. WWF-India NE Regional Office, Guwahati. Final Report to WWF-India, New Delhi (a BCPP). (1997).
- Conservation Strategy for the Indian rhinoceros and Asian elephant in NE India. Asian Rhino & Elephant Conservation Strategy (AREAS). Final Report & Project proposals to WWF-India, New Delhi. (1999).
- The birds of Eaglenest and Sessa Orchid Sanctuaries, Arunachal Pradesh. Final Report to Oriental Bird Club, UK. (2000)
- Survey of birds in Sangti-Shergaon-Kalaktang areas of West Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh. BildLife International, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wild Bird Federation Taiwan and Bombay Natural History Society (2001).
- A systematic review of the mammals of North-East India with special reference to the non-human primates. D.Sc.Thesis. Gauhati Univ. (2001).
- Major inland wetlands of North-Eastern India. A report submitted to SACON, Coimbatore. (2002).
- Survey of Mrs Hume's Pheasant in NE India. Report No. 5. The Rhino Foundation for nature in NE India, Guwahati [final report to OBC, UK]. (2002).
- Biodiversity survey in the upper areas of East Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh. WWF-India Assam & Arunachal Office, Guwahati. (2002).
- The red panda - status and conservation. In 'Biodiversity 'Hiotspots' Conservation Programme (BHCP). Final report 1992-2002. 132-168. WWF- India, New Delhi. (2003).
- Survey of birds in Mechuka-Monigong-Jorgging areas of West and Upper Siang districts, Arunachal Pradesh. Bildlife International, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wild Bird Federation Taiwan and Bombay Natural History Society. (2003).
- Awareness for bird conservation in Nagaland in north-eastern India. Final Report to the Oriental Bird Club, UK. (2004).
- A survey of animal use extraction pattern in some areas of Indian Himalayas.: Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. with KT Thomas Rengma. WPA- India, Guwahati (2005).
- Survey and monitoring of nesting sites of Gyps vultures in Assam, India. Withb K. Lahkar and R. Risebrough. The Rhino Foundation for nature in NE India and Department of Environment & Forests, Government of Assam, Guwahati, India. (2005).
- Census of Wild Water Buffalo in Laokhowa and Burhachapori Wildlife sanctuaries. With B.S. Bonal and C. Muthukumarvel. The Environment & Forest Department and The Rhino Foundation for nature in NE India, Guwahati. (2008).
- Census of Wild Water Buffalo in Manas National Park. With A. Swargiary, C.R. Bhobora and B. Saikia. The Field Directorate, Manas National Park, Barpeta Road and The Rhino Foundation for nature in NE India, Guwahati. (2008).
- Census of WildWater Buffalo in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. With A. Dey. The Environment & Forest Department and The Rhino Foundation for nature in NE India, Guwahati. (2008).
- Survey of mammals and birds in Dibang-Dihang Biosphere Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh. Final Report to Ministry of Env. & Forests, Govt. of India. The Rhino Foundation for nature in NE India. Guwahati, India. 70pp.(2008).
- Records of Sloth Bear and Malayan Sun Bear in North East India. Final report to International Association for Bear Research
& Management (IBA). The Rhino Foundation for nature in NE India, Guwahati, Assam, India. Pp. 53.(2011).
Choudhury's honours include a Gold Medal by Gauhati University, a medal by the North-East India Geographical Society, Forktail-Leica Award for Mrs Hume’s Pheasant study by the Oriental Bird Club, OBC-WildWings Conservation Award, UK for conservation activities in Nagaland, Community Leadership Award (environment) of ERD Foundation, Eastern Himalaya Conservation Award of Balipara Foundation, and various prizes for drawings.
- BBC News on sighting of Manipur bush-quail, June 2006
- Dictionary of International Biography (1987). "Choudhury, Anwaruddin" International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, UK.
- Reference Asia (1991). ""Choudhury, Anwar Uddin". Rifacimento International, New Delhi, India.
- The Sentinel Mélange (2006). "Among the woods (Interview of Anwaruddin Choudhury)". The Sentinel, February 6, 2006. Guwahati, India.
- BirdLife International (2006). "Bush-quail makes unexpected reappearance". BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK. http://www.birdlife.org/nes/news/2006/06/manipur.html. Retrieved on 2007.
- Teresa Rehman (2001). "The Jungle file: Away from his desk, a bureaucrat documents the Northeast’s wildlife". The India Today. http://www.indiatoday.com/itoday/20010820/offtrack.shtml. Retrieved on 2009-06-09.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (1990). Checklist of the Birds of Assam. Guwahati: Sofia Pub. p. 72 pages.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (2000). The Birds of Assam. Guwahati: Gibbon Books & WWF. p. 240 pages . ISBN 81-900866-1-8.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (2003). A Pocket Guide to the Birds of Nagaland. Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation. p. 48 pages . ISBN 81-900866-4-2.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (2006). A Pocket Guide to the Birds of Arunachal Pradesh. Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation. p. 109 pages . ISBN 81-900866-5-0.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (2008). A Pocket Guide to the Birds of Mizoram. Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation. p. 122 pages . ISBN 81-900866-7-7.
- Oriental Bird Club Bulletin 13. Bedfordshire, UK.
- State Coordinators (2007). http://www.bnhs.org/bo/documents/awc_2007/AWC_national_coordinators_new. Retrieved on 2007.
- IBCN (2009). "IBNC State Coordinators". Indian Bird Conservation Network. http://www.ibcn.in/state_list.asp. Retrieved on 2009-06-09.
- BirdLife International (2001). "Threatened Birds of Asia". BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (1996). Survey of White-winged Wood Duck and Bengal Florican, Guwahati: Rhino Foundation. P. 82 pages.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (2002). Survey of Mrs Hume's Pheasant in NE India. Report No. 5. [final report to OBC, UK]. Guwahati: Rhino Foundation. P. 30 pages.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (1989). Primates of Assam : their Distribution, Habitat and Status. Ph.D. thesis. Gauhati Univ. 300 pages.
- Anon. (1990). The Return of the Monkeys - A Primate Conservation Project. Spirit of Enterprise, the 1990 Rolex Awards. pp.350-352. Buri International, Berne, Switzerland.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (2001). A systematic review of the mammals of North-East India with special reference to the non-human primates. D.Sc.Thesis. Gauhati Univ. 209 pages.
- Choudhury,Anwaruddin (2007). A new flying squirrel of the genus Petaurista Link from Arunachal Pradesh in north-east India. The RhinoFoundation for nat. in NE India Newsletter and Journal 7: 26-32, plates.
- Choudhury,Anwaruddin (2009).One more new flying squirrel of the genus Petaurista Link, 1795 from Arunachal Pradesh in north-east India. The Newsletter and Journal of the RhinoFoundation for nat. in NE India 8: 26-34, plates.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (1998). Pere David’s Macaque discovered in India. The Rhino Foundation for nat. in NE India Newsletter 2: 7, plate.
- Sinha, A., A. Datta, M. D. Madhusudan and C. Mishra (2005. Macaca munzala: a new species from western Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India. International Journal of Primatology 26: 977–989.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (1988). Priority ratings for conservation of Indian primates. Oryx 22: 89-94.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (2010). The Vanishing herds: the wild water buffalo, Guwahati : Gibbon Books & Rhino Foundation (supported by COA,Taiwan and CEPF/ATREE).
- Cat Specialist Group. “Members Asia”. http://www.catsg.org/catsgportal/cat-specialist-group/04_members/members_2009_asia.htm Retrieved on 2010-02-24.
- Small Carnivore Specialist Group (2009). “Members’ Profiles” http://www.smallcarnivores.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=40&member=6 Retrieved on 2010-02-24.
- Wildlife conservation awareness in Nagaland (Assam Tribune, March 8, wgbis.ces.iisc.ernet.in/biodiversity/.../econag240314.html - Retrieved on 2009-09-16.
- Choudhury, Anwaruddin (1987). Railway threat to Kaziranga. Oryx 21: 160-163. Oxford/London.
- CBS News (2006). “Modern-day Witch Hunt In Remote India - CBS News”. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/22/world/main1918803.shtml Retrieved on 2010-02-24.
- MMES (2009). "Elephant corridor on construction on NH No. 152". Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society, Assam. http://www.manasmaozi.com/?q=about/elephant_corridor. Retrieved on 2009-06-09.