OT: What made you want to become a wildlife biologist?
Latika Nath: I grew up an only child who spent a lot of time outdoors with animals or reading. Early on I discovered Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. All the classic wildlife legends like David Attenborough, Fateh Singh Rathore, Charles McDougal, and John Seidensticker were people I read about and was fascinated by. I spent about 11 years on and off in the UK studying. I completed a master’s thesis on elephant conservation and a doctorate on tiger conservation (the first Indian with such a doctorate).
OT: You are a woman in a male-dominated field…
Latika Nath: The most difficult thing for me was to stand my ground in the Indian wildlife conservation sphere. I’ve faced opposition from many male wildlife conservationists. Some have made great efforts over the years to thwart job application processes, to ensure I was denied professional memberships to groups and boards; and even today they continue to deny that I am a conservation biologist. I also continually face the challenge of having to bely my physical appearance and prove I am capable of working in the toughest field conditions.
OT: Hidden India—why a coffee-table book on conservation?
Latika Nath: India is an extraordinary land. The sheer diversity of fauna and flora, all in one country, makes it truly incredible. My photographs are snapshots of the conversations I have had with wild animals over the years and glimpses of landscapes in the wilderness. These areas are not easily accessible, and most people have not spent time considering the natural heritage of the country ranging from the Himalaya to the depths of its oceans. Hidden India offers readers a glimpse of the richness of our country and gives a reason to want to conserve the magic that exists here.
OT: What is the best way to conserve India’s biodiversity?
Latika Nath: The top political leadership ne an awakening to understand that all development must incorporate the basic elements of habitat, wildlife and water conservation. With the advent of the internet, social media and advances in technology, awareness about India and its biodiversity will happen organically if the environment becomes a key focus.
OT: What is the one place you wish to travel to and why?
Latika Nath: So many… at the top of the list are the poles, Siberia, the Galapagos, Chile, Madagascar and Manipur… there are still thousands of places in the country that I need to visit, including the Sundarbans, Spiti, Nagaland, Lakshadweep and Kerala.
OT: Your message to the youngsters who want to work in conservation…
Latika Nath: Wildlife conservation is not a career as remunerative as many others, but it is one where you see the most incredible places, work with nature, and gain an understanding of the intimate life of many amazing species. The work is tough and hours long. You need to be someone who is comfortable in your own company, and someone who is at peace being solitary.