“I grew up in a place where we had more trees than houses, more birds than people and more ponds than tanks! Each pond would host at least four species of Kingfishers, three species of herons and numerous species of native fishes. Being a child I used to wander into the homestead forests to look for the vivid butterflies, jewel beetles, the calls of unknown birds and Jungle Cat dens. I grew up embracing those innocent memories and perhaps to revamp those profound memories,” says Sayam U Chowdhury, Conservation Biologist, Nature Photographer and Writer.
Sayam grew up in a part of Bangladesh, where nature was deteriorating fast, right in front of his eyes. His passion for birds began when he was still in primary school, when he had pet birds of his own. He later on learned more about birds, he was fascinated by their diversity, which led to the desire to conserve them. He pursued a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from North South University in Bangladesh and later took up MPhil in Conservation Science under the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK with full scholarship from Chevening and Cambridge Trust. He then began working in behavioural ecology, research and the conservation of globally threatened species. His work with the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper has been most gratifying, among all his works, and involved conservation breeding in Russia and mitigating hunting in the wintering grounds in Bangladesh. This research has now blossomed into a full-blown project that BirdLife International declared as Birdlife Species Guardian. His work on riverine birds has led to proposals for two new protected areas in Bangladesh.
”I found a way to get close to nature, found a subject to study and work that will take me to the calls of the childhood birds. When you grow up close to nature, the love for vast untamed fields, for the wildlife is engrained in you,” says Sayam.
Sayam got his first pair of professional binoculars in 2003; “my life changed since then and I became a seeker of flying colours. “
Sayam has been working in behavioural, research and conservation of globally threatened species in Bangladesh for the last eight years, especially on Critically Endangered bird species including Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Endangered Masked Finfoot, Black-bellied Tern and Baer's Pochard. “In addition, I closely work with Bangladesh bird club and other environmental organisations and help in determining the changes and recommend conservation measures in some of the most important natural habitats of Bangladesh and carry out bird ringing to understand migration pattern of birds.”
Sayam works with a big team, all of whom have the similar desires and an undying love for nature and wildlife. “My biggest inspirations are my friends, my team members and my colleagues. Without them I wont be able to continue any of the work that I'm currently doing, these people include Md. Foysal, Sakib Ahmed, Nazim Prince, Abida Rahman, Onu Tareq, Shimanto Dipu, Abu Diyan and of course my mentors Mr. Enam Ul Haque and Dr. Sabir Bin Muzaffar. Also one source of my inspiration comes from the tremendous destruction of nature and loss of species that we see all around us and these lines by George B. Schaller, “I learned long ago that conservation has no victories, that one must retain connections and remain involved with animals and places that have captured the heart, to prevent their destruction.”
In the future, Sayam plans to expand his work help save threatened species and ecosystems in Bangladesh and beyond. “Moreover, I want to devote my time to encourage the youth in order to have more dedicated individuals (especially women) working in nature conservation in Bangladesh.”
Sayam believes the future of Bangladesh's wildlife is not so bright, “but as an optimistic individual, I still see light. All is not gone from our land. Our forest in the northeast still echo with magical calls of the Endangered Hollock Gibbons and Elongated Tortoises still twist the leaf litter to find fallen fruits,” says Sayam. He fondly recalls how the mighty Sundarbans even now with so much destruction around us supports our last tigers and the murky waterways still hold globally threatened Ganges River Dolphins and Masked Finfoots, elephants continue to silently wander through the Jhum lands and Tigers roam the in the remote CHT. “Our freshwater and coastal wetlands are still home of the critically endangered species like the Baer's Pochard and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The mighty Padma and Jamuna rivers have undisturbed sandbanks where riverine birds nest and possibly the Gharial still basks in the sun.” Sayam firmly believes that our country has already lost a majority of her biological diversities; and now we cannot afford any more loss.
Sayam's relationship with the wild is one that is made in Heaven, they both thrive for each other's existence. “In one word – my life would be meaningless if I'm left without wildlife and nature, and that's probably true for the whole world.”