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IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group Bulletin
© IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group

Volume 4 Pages 1 - 45 (March 1989)

Obituary: Lt. Col. Fatesinghrao Gaekwad of Baroda
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In India they called him "His Highness". On paper his name was "Lt. Col. Fatesinghrao Gaekwad of Baroda". But we IUCN Otter Specialists just called him "Jackie". Our friend Jackie died on September 1st, 1988, a loss felt in many circles around the world.

Born in 1930, Jackie was the last in a long line of titled Maharajas of Baroda, one of the richest princely states of India. His multifaceted public life included a reign as Maharaja of Baroda, a later career in Indian politics as a Member of Parliament and an active role in the sport of cricket first as a player, then as Manager of the Indian cricket team. Author of the book, "Palaces of India", gourmet cook, art collector, diplomat, corporate chairman, all these roles and more were filled simultaneously throughout Jackie's busy life. Along the way, around the world, Jackie acquired friends. His annual personal newsletter was eagerly awaited by "3000 of his closest friends", as he once explained to me.

In the last decades of his life, Jackie was an active conservationist. He delighted in telling people the story of his conversion to conservation, when as a young man he went on a hunting safari to Africa and ended up wishing to shoot these animals instead with film. He became dedicated to conservation work to ensure that the wildlife he knew as a child in India still retained a place on earth. These activities included directing an advisory committee on population control for the Smithsonian, serving as President of World Wildlife Fund India, and participation in numerous conservation groups including the Snow Leopard Trust, the Otter Trust, the ICBP, and a handful of IUCN Specialist Groups, including ours.

Jackie's introduction to the IUCN Otter Specialist Group was at the 1981 Second International Otter Colloquium in Norwich, England. As Chairman of the zoos 1n India, he succeeded in collecting data for our group on the status of captive otters in India. At the 1985 fourth International Otter Symposium in Santa Cruz, California, Jackie proposed that the next meeting be held in India. For the ensuing three years, Jackie worked diligently to see this goal realized. He activated his impressive network of Indian government and conservation connections who all pitched in wholeheartedly to make the conference a success. Jackie, sadly, never lived to see the fruits of his labours.

The International Asian Otter Symposium opened its inaugural session with a moment of silence in Jackie's honour and the Proceedings will be dedicated to him. We will personally miss our friend Jackie, but we will always have his legacy, the initiation of otter conservation work in Asia. "Our Maharaja" has left us this gift of incalculable value and it remains our task to realise its full worth.

Pat Foster-Turley

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