Aditya ‘Dicky’ Singh: The wildlife chronicler behind iconic images
Aditya ‘Dicky’ Singh was a tiger – a large-hearted gentleman. His sudden, untimely passing, at the age of 57 from a heart attack, has come as a shock to the wildlife fraternity.
Machali and Noor were his muse. It would be fair to say that Ranthambhore’s famous tigers owe a bit of their fame to Aditya Singh. Dicky to family and friends, his photographs of tigers in Ranthambhore, many of which went viral on social media, captivated the world. Dicky documented several tiger families in the last two and a half decades, a rich source of information to wildlife officials and conservators. His deep knowledge of the many denizens of Ranthambhore National Park made him the go-to person for anyone visiting the reserve, from wildlife photographers to filmmakers .
It was in 2000 when I first met Dicky through the then Divisional Forest Officer of the national park. After leaving the safety net of a civil service job, Dicky (and wife Poonam) moved to Sawai Madhopur in 1998 to set up The Ranthambhore Bagh lodge. It soon became home to some of us who chose to volunteer with the forest department, especially during tiger census and monsoon patrolling . But he and his wife did more – over the years, they acquired land just outside the reserve, and gave it time to revive. The result was a mini forest of around 35-40 acres, habituated by a profusion of wild fauna, including Ranthambhore’s most famous residents. And, in their own way, they built and fostered a community of conservators, researchers and photographers – the kind any reserve needs.
More than the tigers which he put on the global conservation or tourism map, though, Dicky will be missed for his straight talk, unparalleled warmth, hospitality and generosity. Every evening, whatever the season, a motley crowd would gather at his lawn to be regaled with his tiger and wildlife stories. There was no need for an invitation to join his party, even for someone not staying in his lodge. “Did you know the name ‘Machali’ originally belonged to the mother of the tigress? She had the fish mark on her face which got passed on to her daughter and the BBC encashed it to market their new film,” he would start.
Dicky was extraordinary generous, both in terms of giving out or sharing camera gear, no matter how expensive it was, for someone to use, or extending financial help to needy forest guards and other field-level daily wage workers in Ranthambhore. Even the forest department would turn to him for help and assistance. There was nothing that happened in Ranthambore that he did not know about, although he wore his knowledge lightly.
Dicky was a tiger – a large-hearted gentleman. His sudden, untimely passing, at the age of 57 from a heart attack, has come as a shock to the wildlife fraternity. Ranthambhore will no longer be the same for those in the conservation brotherhood, but, in truth, thanks to his network, and his opinions (which he wasn’t hesitant to vice), Dicky’s influence extended far beyond one corner of Rajasthan. He had an opinion on most things under the sun, and where conservation or wildlife were concerned, this was usually extremely well-informed. His last tweet exemplifies that: “Energy is rarely green.”
(The writer is an author, artist and wildlife conservationist)