Little wild lives by Sandeep Das, Kerala's shutterbug-turned-biologist

Sandeep Das, herpetologist, self-taught photographer and EDGE Hero of the London Zoological society talks about his love for the macro world

Published: 21st May 2021 06:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st May 2021 03:41 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), a species indigenous to the Western Ghats, lives under the earth throughout the year and come out just once in 365 days to breed. The male and female frogs come out together, lay the egg, and go back underground. Its underground lifestyle is still a mystery for researchers. Purple frogs belong to the endangered category, the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  

Herpetologist and nature photographer Sandeep Das is one of the researchers who have been tailing this rare amphibian for several years now. “It took us years to finally capture the frog when it came out,” recalls Sandeep. Utterly captivated by the ‘living fossil’, Sandeep submitted a proposal urging the state forest department to name Purple Frog as the state amphibian. 

The Zoological Society of London recently made Sandeep their EDGE Hero Awardee. He became an EDGE Fellow in 2017 for his work with the Purple frogs. He is also a research scholar at the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI). This biologist has been part of many teams that discovered new amphibian and reptilian species.

Science aside, Sandeep is a photographer who can create the most balanced, impeccable frames even in the wild. The frames narrate the stories of the macro world. As a researcher, Sandeep’s work begins at night, when the amphibians crawl out. That is when the predators come out too. “Working in the wild gives you an adrenaline rush that can’t be explained. It’s an adventure and is also a highly rewarding photography experience,” says Sandeep.   

At home in the wild
For Sandeep, the wild is his second home. “I have always loved animals and wanted to keep pets. But it never happened. My father never believed in the idea of pets, which he said is curbing the freedom of an animal,” Sandeep recalls.

His bond with the wild started early in life, exploring the forests with his father. Sandeep was an avid bird watcher in college and that is where he picked up photography. Later, when the love for the wild transcended into his academic domain, the photographer in him took the shape of an ambassador of wildlife, especially that of the micro world. “The focus is to bring more visibility to what is in the wild and trigger policy changes that include conservation,” says Sandeep.  

Sandeep adds that to be a good wildlife photographer, one needs to know his way around the wild. “There is no scope for a retake. If you know your subject, its habitat, and how it responds to a stimulus, then you will get a good frame,” he says. 

Sandeep won the Kerala State Wildlife Photographer of the Year award by the Kerala Forest & Wildlife Department in 2019 for capturing an iconic picture of a bee hovering around Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana), a frame he had been nurturing in his mind for years. “On that day, every bit of that manifested in the frame,” he recalls. 

Sandeep is striving to familiarise the less-known bits of the wild through his photos. “Of course, everyone loves capturing the larger mammals. I want to bring to the spotlight amphibians and reptiles. Since these are the animals I work with, I have a vested interest here,” he quips.  Sandeep’s dream is to chase the Jesus Christ Lizard (Common basilisk). “I want to see this lizard. It can run on the water when it flees from predators. It will be a delight to capture them,”he says.
@_sandeep_das onInstagram


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