Zai Whitaker has written a dozen books, most of them for children and young readers.
She writes about wildlife and conservation. Her interest in this arey began when she
was a young girl in Mumbai, because of the several naturalists in her family. These
included Dr Salim Ali the ornithologist, who is known as the Bird Man of India. After
college, Zai worked at the Snake Park and Crocodile Bank in Chennai. At both places,
she spoke and wrote about the fascinating lives of these animals, and the importance
of protecting them. This was not always easy because people don’t like reptiles very
much, and many feel that the only good reptile is a dead one. But the work of these
two organizations has guaranteed protection for many species which were becoming
rare or extinct, such as the gharial.
Zai is also interested in indigenous people. She has studied and worked with people
of the Irula community, who are snake catchers. Irulas are also very knowledgeable
about medicinal plants. Zai is a director of the Irula Tribal Women’s Welfare Society,
which helps the community in many ways. But this is in her spare time and during her
holidays. She teaches at the Kodaikanal International School, which is located in one of
the most beautiful hill stations of south India.
Zai enjoys writing both fiction and non-fiction, and also poetry. Her book of poems, “The
Boastful Centipede and other Creatures in Verse”, is being set to music by a group
of musicians in Goa. An American film maker plans to make a short children’s film
based on one of her short stories. And her story “What Happened to the Reptiles”, with
its message of communal harmony, is being used by several human rights groups to
discuss this important issue with youngsters.