Meet the man who photographed blackbuck, Indian wolf, flamingos in Telangana

Santhosh Kumar’s photos of the rare wildlife animals and migratory birds in Nizamabad have gone so viral that forest officials have increased vigilance in the area.
Meet the man who photographed blackbuck, Indian wolf, flamingos in Telangana
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“People are amused at my photographs… Many wonder if they were really taken in Nizamabad,” said Santhosh Kumar Kyatam, an educationist-turned-wildlife photographer, referring to the vast variety of wildlife pictures he has taken.

With his stunning photographs, Santhosh recently introduced the world to a host of wildlife animals he found in the forests of Telangana — herds of blackbuck, flocks of flamingos and the Indian grey wolf. These wildlife animals and birds are rare sightings and were spotted along the Godavari river in the backwaters of the Sriramsagar Project in Nizamabad district.

Although Santhosh clicked the photographs of the wild animals over the last two years, he released the pictures only recently. They have since gone so viral that the Nizamabad district forest officials have increased vigilance in the area.

Exploring wildlife through teaching

Spread across 1.66 lakh hectares, Nizamabad district is known for its dense forests and water bodies.

While blackbucks are seen in the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary in the neighbouring Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, flamingos migrate to Pulicat in Nellore along the Bay of Bengal. The presence of the Indian wolf in the region has stunned even forest officials.

Santhosh was a software engineer before he founded Navyabharati Global School, located on the outskirts of Nizamabad city. The 49-year-old Hyderabad native says he built a bond with nature and wildlife after moving to Nizamabad in 2007.

TNM caught up with Santhosh, who shared how he was drawn to exploring forests, especially in Nizamabad. “I used to take our students for birdwatching and trekking in Adivimamidipalli near Nizamabad. I started finding it more interesting after I began to spot some rare birds,” he recalled.

After almost 10 years of birdwatching and observing the wildlife in Nizamabad’s forests, in 2018 Santhosh decided to archive it using a professional camera. Over the last two years, Santhosh has photographed a range of species. He learnt the techniques of handling lenses on his own, with some suggestions from experts.

Santhosh has sighted a variety of birds near Adivimamidipalli on the outskirts of Nizamabad — crested hawk-eagle, yellow-footed green pigeon, Indian pitta, paradise flycatcher, painted sandgrouse, chestnut-bellied sandgrouse and crested serpent eagle. 

The backwaters of the Sriramsagar Project in Nadikuda village, Santhosh said, is home to the blackbuck, Indian wolf, flamingos, pelicans, Indian courser, oriental pratincole, small pratincole, cormorants, painted storks, open bill storks, spoonbills, different types of ducks, apart from leopards and antelopes.

‘Forest officials didn’t believe me initially’

Santhosh has been observing blackbucks for the last 10 years. This Indian antelope is commonly found in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, as well as in parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Speaking about spotting blackbucks and the Indian grey wolf recently, he said, “In June, when I mentioned blackbucks to the forest officials, they didn’t believe me at first. I then sent them a few images. It was only after this that they accepted it,” he said.

Santhosh said that he spotted the Indian grey wolf or the Indian wolf, which are usually found in parts of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal, for the first time in Telangana two months ago.

“Their presence in Telangana can perhaps be attributed to blackbucks, which are their prey,” said Santhosh, adding that he spotted around five to six Indian wolves along the backwaters of the Sriramsagar Project and Godavari river.

When asked how he had spotted these wild animals, he said, “Perhaps the inaccessibility of this specific corner of the forest, due to the high water levels, might have been an advantage for these wild animals to make it their habitat.”

Santhosh said that a few experts had taught him about the ethics of wildlife photography and of meticulously capturing wildlife through the lens. “For me, taking wildlife photographs is always secondary; it takes nearly 30 minutes to see blackbucks from a 100-feets range.”

He added, “One should never disturb their habitat or chase the animals. Even if we don’t get a photo, we should be happy that we were able to see them.”

Giving a piece of advice to budding wildlife or nature photography enthusiasts, he said, “First, a photographer should enjoy nature and never forget ethics in the eagerness to take photos. If we protect nature, it will protect us. Photographs should speak rather than words.”

Santhosh is next planning to hold an exhibition featuring his wildlife and nature photographs to help a state-run orphanage in the district.

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