Invaluable data

Print edition : May 03, 2013

‘Bisal Munti’, the disputed family bungalow of the Van Ingens. Photo: Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed

JOUBERT VAN INGEN’S death has led to a nasty inheritance row. At stake are the majestic family bungalow, “Bisal Munti”, located on a sprawling piece of land in a prime part of Mysore, a vast coffee estate in Kerala, and several animal mounts and trophies, big cat skins, ivory and assorted animal paraphernalia that the Van Ingens acquired in the almost 100-year history of their operations in Mysore. But perhaps what is most important for researchers of Indian wildlife are the priceless records they have maintained.

The bungalow, where the family lived for a century, has been sealed by the Mysore Police. The remnants of the detailed records that were maintained at the factory and an impressive library on natural history have also been locked away. While Joubert has relatives in Mysore and England who are his heirs, the presence of an aide, Michael Eswar, who claims that he was adopted by the late taxidermist, has complicated matters.

Krithi K. Karanth, Adjunct Professor at The Nicholas School of Environment, Duke University managed to briefly look at the Van Ingen records in 2005 while she was researching for her doctoral thesis. She said: “There were 80 to 100 registers from the 1910s all the way down to the 1980s containing detailed information about India’s natural history, and the data they had was invaluable. The Indian government needs to get involved to make these records available to researchers and care needs to be taken so that they are not lost.”

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed

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