In Nature And In Love With Bugs, Kashmiri Scholar Receives Younger Naturalist Award

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by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: Fascinated by the world of insects, a little boy kept wondering how these little creatures lived. Crucial to the existence of the world, he was curious to learn more about its life. The way they communicate, fly and sleep. In his growing years, he reached for magnifying glasses to follow them everywhere. The curiosity continued.

Suhaib Firdous Yatoo

During his academic career, he tried to find answers from books inside and outside his curriculum. Somewhere he found a glimpse of his answers in his textbook chapter entitled Pappachis Motte, written by Arundhati Roy in her Booker-winning book The God of Small Things.

As he went through books and banners, he could think of words that were relevant to insects. He remembers the words like entomologist that eventually illuminated the world he wanted to explore and the path he wanted to choose: to be an entomologist.

The urge to explore kindled in him the passion to become an entomologist and to discover species unknown to the world. Eventually, 23-year-old Suhaib Firdous Yatoo found himself in the wild to make his dream come true.

Finally, on January 30th, he received the Young Naturalist Award from the Sanctuary Nature Foundation, a prestigious organization committed to protecting wildlife. A great achievement for this young man, Suhaib, a B.Sc undergraduate at Sopore Degree College, was recognized for discovering and documenting the endemic flora of mushrooms and two-winged flies scientifically known as Diptera.

“I wanted to become an entomologist and I would soon find myself in the vast wilderness of northern Kashmir,” said Suhaib, a resident of Sopore

“Intrepid explorer, wandering scientist and wondrous researcher of the wildlife in Jammu and Kashmir,” describes the Sanctuary Nature Foundation Yatoo, who was one of the youngest award winners to put a feather in his hat. He is one of three young naturalists, including Anurag Karekar and Ridhima Pandey, who have been recognized by the foundation.

The award is given to youth leaders who set an example for their peers and older generations through their thirst for knowledge and conservation entrepreneurship motivated by hopes for their future on planet earth.

Suhaib Firdous Yatoo

With an infinite curiosity about the scientific work of the nature around him, Yatoo became a co-founder of the Fund for the Conservation of Wildlife Biodiversity in Pampore. He was director of the organization until 2019 and was promoted to research director last year. He eagerly documents the natural world that fascinates him, from endemic flora to fungi and microorganisms. He also studies insects and records behaviors with endless patience. He has a particular interest in Diptera, an order of two-winged flies, and myxomycetes (slime molds).

“I checked a manuscript for the Journal of Threatened Taxa. I have been consulted as a “mushroom expert” with one of the largest open access online databases focused on biodiversity, Eflora of India. ASCOFrance and Mushroom Observer.

Inspired by the works of Peter Scott and David Shepherd, Yatoo said he wanted to document every step of his work through photographs. Most of the work done so far doesn’t include photos, which makes it less interesting. “I want to arouse interest in laypeople in taxonomy. The area of ​​taxonomy is dying in Kashmir. All research resides in journal articles, which are seldom accessible to ordinary people who might otherwise be interested. I want to make them publicly available to generate interest, ”he said, adding,“ There are more than a hundred species of flies in my collection. “

“I think butterflies get more attention than other species, while humans are rarely aware of the importance of flies to ecology,” he added.

Two-winged insect, one of the species discovered by Suhaib Firdous Yatoo

Suhaib remembers vividly that when he was a child he wrote on his school bag: “I am an entomologist. I discovered a new species in 2020, ”he said, but so far I have already discovered more than five species that are not yet publicly available.

According to him, he could not explain to the layman why he wandered into the wild, but he wants to contribute to the taxonomic field and do research into the future of entomology. “I received this award for Citizen Science,” he said.