Romulus Earl Whitaker’s TED and TEDx Experiences and His Story for You
Herpatologist Romulus Earl Whitaker, founder of Snake Park, Chennai and crocodile park in Mahabalipuram, came to Chennai in 1951, when he was seven years old. It is gratifying to note that he considers himself Indian rather than American. Whitaker has the distinction of speaking at both TED India (at Infosys campus, Mysore) and TEDx Chennai (at IIT-Madras). “Some people like snakes and some people dislike them and there are neutral people,” Whitaker says about perception of people on snakes.
TED and TEDx have helped him reach the wider set of audience including CEOs, researchers, and mainstream
audience instead of a closed group of researchers who come to him usually. In the land of snake charmers, Whitaker has made snake research and snake preservation his vocation. His work on snakes led him to establish Agumbe Rainforest Research Station on the Agumbe hills in Karnataka, which has given him international recognition. He initially had hiccups with government permissions and some officials who found his endeavor worthwhile helped him. “If rain forests are wiped out of the earth, we will not have water,” he says emphatically. He has a dedicated team who help him in his endeavor. Whitaker considers his mother an inspiration and when mothers would not allow their children “play” with snakes, Whitaker’s mother allowed him to bring as many snakes as he wanted home. And who are his other inspirations? There are a dozen people around the world and he cannot name anyone in particular. His research is always prone to roadblocks being unconventional in nature and where does he look up for in times of depressing moments? He does not believe in religion, and his own dream and his internal voice keeps him going. Although unusual, Whitaker’s passion for snakes is an institution today. He dared to dream and make it big. He is surely an inspiration for all the entrepreneurs who are afraid to test new and untraditional ideas. If you had commitment, passion, and inspiration that Whitaker had in making his dream a reality, you too can succeed.
As told to Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy during TEDx Chennai