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Birdman of India Salim Ali

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Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali born on 12 November 1896 in a Sulaimani Bohra family in Bombay. He was the ninth and youngest child of Moizuddin and Zeenat-un-nissa. Ali was orphaned at the age of 3 and was then raised by his maternal uncle Amiruddin Tyabji.He completed his studies in St. Xavier’s College, Bombay and then went to Burma (now Myanmar) to assist in family business. In 1917 he returned to India and continued his studies by taking up Zoology.

Later he worked as a guide lecturer at the natural history section of the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay and worked under Professor Erwin Stresemann at the Berlin Zoological Museum in Germany. In 1930 he conducted bird surveys of the princely states of Hyderabad, Cochin, Travancore, Gwalior, Indore and Bhopal which was sponsored by the rulers of the states. His book The Book of Indian Birds (1941) popularised ornithology among the common man.

Post-independence, he took over the charge of Bombay natural history society and successfully managed it. Whenever Bombay Natural History Society financial crunches Salim Ali saved it. His international award of INR 5 lakhs was donated to Bombay Natural History Society. He received various awards for his unrelenting work in the field of Ornithology including Padma Bhushan (1958), the Padma Vibhushan (1976).

Salim Ali married Tehmina Begum in 1918. In 1939, his wife passed away. Ali passed away on June 20, 1987, at the age of 90. The government of India established the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History at Coimbatore (SACON) in 1990.

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