A Soul Irreplaceable
Chirag Roy – a conservation biologist, a comrade, a lover of nature, a friend to wildlife; a husband, a son, a brother to many, an inspiration to all. On March 1, 2016, Chirag Roy passed away, amidst nature, doing what he loved, of a Cobra bite, after he had an allergic reaction to anti-venom- a serum used to fight snake venom.
A naturalist and conservation biologist, Chirag Roy was born in Kolkata, India, and did his schooling in Darjeeling. He acquired his Bachelor's degree in Kolkata, and then pursued a diploma in Forestry. Since then, his unmatched passion for nature and wildlife has been evident in his work. Chirag, although worked in India most of his life, he travelled to Bangladesh frequently to help conserve animals in this country as well. To conservation biologists here, Chirag has been a pivotal source of inspiration. "It's still hard to believe that he's not here. But there is something important we can learn from this incident-- that anyone can pass away, at any time. It's just extremely sad that he had to go so soon. It hasn't sunk in yet," says Shahriar Caeser Rahman, conservation biologist and Co-founder of Creative Conservation Alliance. Shahriar first met Chirag on Facebook, around the year 2007-8. They got to know each other, and spoke about their interest in wildlife and how they spent their time trying to conserve nature. "His passion was evident even then, in the first few conversations itself," he says. "He worked a lot with snakes, in the field of herpetology, and was a well known naturalist in India."
Chirag also worked for Eco-tourism, and he also worked at a tiger reserve as a tiger tourism guide. During the monsoon, he would come to Bangladesh and lead an independent team for Eco-tours. He would take people out in the forest, introduce them to the raw wildlife here in our country, and show them the beauty of the animals hidden in the deepest, darkest depths of our forests. "In 2013 we met first when we were just launching the Python Project to help conserve snakes and other reptiles in our country," says Shahriar. "We had some issues with inserting the transmitter in the snakes. Chirag, who has a lot of experience in husbandry and care in captivity, helped us with the work. He gave us a lot of advice and suggestions on how to keep the snakes calm, how to get the work done with local anaesthesia instead of general, and so on." Then Scott Trageser, another conservation biologist from America, Shahriar and Chirag worked on the first snake to have a transmitter inserted.
The international volunteer workshop on eco-tourism that is held here was also an idea that Chirag came up with. "In this workshop, volunteers would come from abroad and go into the tropics, for photography and touring. They would pay an amount which would not only accommodate them with food and shelter, but would also contribute to the funding of our project."
In 2014, Shahriar and Chirag travelled to Bandarban together as members of the expedition for the Arakan forest turtle. "We thought the turtles were found just in Myanmar, but Chirag and I discovered them in Bangladesh together and also published a paper on our findings." Chirag's contribution to conservation in Bangladesh is paramount. "He was an integral part of our work, as a friend and as an adviser. He had an experience of 10 years as a naturalist."
As a person, Chirag was soft spoken, laid back, friendly, and always had a smile. "He had the ability to make everyone feel comfortable and easy. Even if you'd meet him for the first time, you would feel like you've known him for years" says Shahriar, "he was an incredibly slow walker though!" remembers Shahriar with a faint smile, packed with fond memories of a good friend. "We would call him 'cluck' -- a local term for a breed of monkeys that are very slow," he laughs a little. "He was allergic to a lot of things. I remember seeing him rash-ridden so many times! We would make fun of him. But we knew and we were scared, that he would never survive a snake bite." Their fears coming true, allergic to anti-venom, that's how he died.
Chirag would visit Bangladesh twice a year but was a consultant to Shahriar at all times. "Even when we discovered the tiger pug marks recently, he was the first person to come to my mind. He would always be an inspiration, giving us support, never wanting to be at the centre of the stage. His existence meant a lot to us."
Losing someone like Chirag Roy was a big blow for the conservation of nature and wildlife in this sub-continent. "But we realised that life moves on. I learned from him to love what I do even more. And that is what I will keep with me forever- things he taught me, things he inspired me to do. I think I can speak on everyone's behalf when I say this."
May Chirag Roy's irreplaceable soul rest in eternal peace.