Dhaka Courier

Enam Ul Haque: An anecdote on the patriarch of expeditionary science in Bangladesh

Strolling through coastal mudflat in pursuit of birds Photo: Sayam U. Chowdhury

Enam Ul Haque is one of the very first naturalists of the country to introduce nature-centered practices in Bangladesh. From nature watch to camping, field ornithology to conservation biology, trekking and mountaineering to summit the highest peaks and pole ward extremes, he is the artificer sowing the audacity of dreams into the heart of the youth coveted for adrenalin rush, longed for the call of nature. The pioneering initiatives of Enam Ul Haque is deemed highly influential in the spread of ornithology in Bangladesh, often, this eminent personality is celebrated as the ‘Birdman of Bangladesh’ collating with the great ornithologist, Birdman of India, Salim Ali.

Early Life

Born in a far flung village of Khustia in 1945, 4th among three sons and four daughters of Usuf Ali and Kaniz Fatema, Enam Ul Haque received his first lessons of love for nature in and around of his village jungles. Bird-watching was the gateway catalyst that would have shape his lifelong passion. Later on, his curiosity and insatiable quench for knowledge never left him. He is, all along, a person who constantly observes, experiments, explores and, above all, loves to dream.

Mr Haque completed his institutional degrees from the Faridpur Rajendra College. He stood first in IBA, Dhaka University on the completion of his MBA degree in 1979. Enumerating more feathers to his crown, this staunch personality served the Bangladesh Air Force from 1971 to 1995 retiring as wing commander. He spearheaded several non-government organizations and companies, namely, BRAC (1996-1997), G.Q. Industries Ltd. (1998-2005). The dynamic professional life of Enam Ul Haque reflects his merits and depth of his perception.

It begun with conservation photography

Through nurturing the childhood passion, Enam Ul Haque, like his mentor, Salim Ali, dedicates his life with the birds of Bangladesh. Starting to photograph birds with the encouragement of photographer friend Anwar Hossain, Mr Haque is now demonstrating conservation works for birds of Bangladesh leaving everything behind.

Given the small size and populous status, Bangladesh is blessed with vibrant avian diversity of over seven hundred different species – a number nearly equal to all bird species of total Europe. And, Enam Ul Haque is one of the rarest and most avid birders of the country who got the luck to watch and photograph nearly all birds of Bangladesh as well as many other around many exquisite habitats of the world.

Wielder of the Bangladesh Bird Club and the Bangla Mountaineering and Trekking Club

After concluding his time as a BAF arrowhead, Enam Ul Haque established the Bangladesh Bird Club (Bbc) in 1997. Students of life science, bird enthusiasts utilize the club as a platform to enhance their knowledge. Many members of the club are now known in bird conservation sector – home and abroad. Under the mentorship of Enam Ul Haque, a bunch of them visited foreign institutions to be skilled on field ornithology including attempting doctorate degree. The Bangladesh Bird Club is thriving now, holding meetings, publishing newsletter regularly, organizing bird photography exhibition every year and welcoming everyone with a heart for nature.

Enam Ul Haque’s quest to see the unseen has led to the birth of another adventure hub – the Bangla Mountaineering and Trekking Club (BMTC). In 2003, he formed the club instilling his experience of travelling. Enam Ul Haque has visited countries – the count goes to double digits. He has been to places that even belong to no sovereign. Stepping foot on the Antarctica and racing a marathon in the North Pole made the soul the first of the Bangladeshis attempting these acts of valor. Inspired by his invaluable experiences and tales, BMTC prized Bangladesh with her first Everest summiteers - M. A. Muhit and Nishat Mazumder. The club members who also trekked and summitted many of the Himalayan peaks are now attempting the Seven Summit – a challenge to climb the highest mountain peak of every continent.

The residence of Mr Haque serves home for both of the clubs, turning as a tranquil sanctuary for any nature enthusiast. There is a library, a horde of paintings of different artists and nature photographs by photographers. The archive of Enam Ul Haque birds is national treasury. It worth a visit for every good soul.

A relentless guardian of nature

The ardour of Enam Ul Haque for birds reaches the Wetland International and the Oriental Bird Club – two major custodians of global bird conservation. Since 2010, bird ringing, a scientific and systematic method of studying birds, has been pioneered by Mr. Haque – a practice that has been followed by many in the country in later years. Presently, the club has the most prolific database on the birds of Bangladesh.

To incite awareness and love for birds among the general people, he started ‘Bird Fair’ in the Jahangirnagar University, much like the Baishakhi fair. What has been a nebulous effort initially inside the university boundary, is now pervasive in whole Bangladesh. This is an initiative preserving both cultural and environmental tradition. Also, this kind of endeavor inspires youth to get into the positive sphere of activity. Perhaps, no one will know the name of who dreamt such a fair of its kind; but it will continue for as long as it goes. An eminent person like Enam Ul Haque, prefers to live such a seclusive life.

Mr Haque took up the issue of the diminishing vultures of the country back in 2007.  The white-rumped vultures, owing to the lethal effect of feeding upon the carcass treated with a steroid, diclofenac, in alive state, have simply dwindled down to mere thousands from several millions in the past century. Through Bangladesh Bird Club, he noticed the dire state of this taboo-to-many species, and raised voice. His effort led to the nationwide ban of the diclofenac. Now, the vultures are reverting back from the extirpation.

Enam Ul Haque is formally connected to a vast network of nature and bird community. He was a significant member of the Bangladesh Wildlife Advisory Board of the Government, former executive member and lifetime member of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), founding president of the BBC and the BMTC. Together with Mr. Enayetullah Khan, Professor M Harunur Rashid and Professor Md. Anwarul Islam, Mr Haque, Vice Chairman of WildTeam, former Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh, sculptured this organization – the oldest and the longest thriving of its kind in the country – leading researches and conservation of the Bengal tigers.

His association with birds goes beyond national border, and is ubiquitous. He is a lifetime member in the Bombay Natural History Society and member of Oriental Bird Club- UK’s biggest Bird Research Institution.

His Publications

Enam Ul Haque writes extra-ordinarily. He authored several books on birds and nature. He spearheaded the composition of Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna and Environment of Capital Dhaka – two books of the Asiatic Society Bangladesh. His first book was Innocent Bangladesh - a photo compilation on children, published by Cosmos Publications in 2004.  Another distinctive work of Mr Haque is Feathered Splendours: Birds of Bangladesh – another photo album that holds his up-close moments with birds. His narratives of his experiences with avian friends are sketched in Pakhider-o Ache Naki Mon (The souls of birds). His latest contribution to country’s ornithology can be found in Bangladesher Pakhir Field Guide (Field guide to the birds of Bangladesh) where he compiled Bengali names and identification traits of every avian species seen in the country.

Recognitions and the Bangabandhu Award for Wildlife Conservation

The applause to the dedication of Enam Ul Haque and his contribution to nature go on national scale and even beyond. In 1996, he was awarded the Certificate of Merit for his photography in the International Photo Exhibition, India. He got the best writer award in 2000 arranged by Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh for publishing environment-related article. In 2005, he was awarded by the Jahangirnagar University for the contribution in bird conservation. He received the Vocational Excellence award from the Rotary club in 2005. In 2008, his contribution was acknowledged by the Retired Armed Forces Officers‘ Welfare Association (RAOWA). He was awarded Prokriti O Jibon Foundation-Channel-i “Nature Conservation Award-2014”.

Enam Ul Haque recently received the Bangabandhu Award for Wildlife Conservation, the most revered award in the conservation sector of Bangladesh. In a ceremonious event on the July 18th, 2018, the Hon’ble Prime Minister accorded the soul with the gold medal.

It feels wondering about the secrets behind the simple life of Enam Ul Haque. This ever-young septuagenarian has mastered the skill of extracting the good elements of nature and ways to live happily as a giver attitude. In exultation his position as a person, another nature lover, Dhaka University zoology professor Dr. Md. Anwarul Islam stated, “I feel lucky to have a good person like Enam Ul Haque. I do not dare to think myself as one of his friends because his friend list consists of a lot of renowned persons. I am still trying to make myself as his friend.”Enam Ul Haque is not only a modest and merited but also a very brave man. Such is the reason that drives him with courage make the earth livable for the youngsters.

He aspires that the dawn breaks and embarking of dusk will always be announced by bird chirping, trilling and hooting – as this ensures the harmony between man and nature.

May God accepts his dream.

Muntasir Akash is a lecturer at the department of zoology, University of Dhaka: akashmuntasir10@gmail.com

Jaheen Muntasira and Meher Nigar Sultana are former interns of WildTeam

  • Enam Ul Haque: An anecdote on the patriarch of expeditionary science in Bangladesh
  • Muntasir Akash with Jaheen Muntasira and Meher Nigar Sultana
  • Issue 21
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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