Photo: Ninad Gosavi.
Young Naturalist Award
With a keen focus on the systematics of blind snakes, Akshay Khandekar’s sheer hard work has won him the respect of some of the country’s most distinguished herpetologists.
Indian herpetology, a field that was neglected until recently, has seen an influx of youth in recent years. Most of them are fascinated by ‘circumstantial situations’ inspired from hosts of sensational TV shows. They frequently end up catching or photographing snakes under the pretext of snake studies. Catching a snake, big or small, is not herpetology but knowing them to the core, with a focused attitude is! In this scenario, Akshay Khandekar is certainly the odd youth out!
Blind snakes are small, not very colourful, rarely seen, burrowers and less-charismatic, and hence are poorly studied. A large proportion of these serpents are not yet known to science globally. Although from a rural setup with mediocre educational and research background, Akshay is studying the blind snakes of India with exceptional focus and dedication. This is a herculean task as our present knowledge of these snakes is largely based on anecdotal studies and historical literature.
Akshay is not only paving his path through his aptitude but also by putting an equal amount of his efforts into backbreaking fieldwork, meticulous bibliographical research and much-needed taxonomic studies. Although a beginner, Akshay has a good understanding of amphibians and reptiles from various habitats. He is presently doing his research in Dr. Praveen Karanth’s lab at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Akshay is undoubtedly one of the best upcoming researchers in the field of Indian herpetology and a role model for the many young men and women who yearn to pursue a career in Indian herpetology.
– By Varad Giri, Post-Doctoral Fellow, National Centre for Biological Science
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI No. 12, December 2016.