Mahir – the little biologist

Today on the Little Stars cover is six-year-old biology enthusiast Mahir, who takes special interest in observing animals and recording what he observes. With the help of his parents, he maintains a video log on this Facebook page “The Little Biologist”. Mahir is a student of Lyceum International School, Wattala and aims to become a biologist when he is older.

Mahir, tell us about yourself.

My name is Mahir Mikail Noordeen. I’m six years old and I live in Ja-Ela. I go to Lyceum International School, Wattala. I have five members in my family – my parents, my brother, and my grandparents.

I’ve loved nature and animals since I was very young. I like to spend a lot of time in my garden. I breed butterflies as a hobby and I like to study the life circles of different animals like frogs, dragonflies, lady bugs, etc. I like exploring. I go to different places with my family to explore and learn more about nature. I am also a member of the Young Zoologists’ Association. Apart from that, I also like spending time and playing with my brother and my friends.

What inspired your interest in biology?

It was my father. Since I was small, he used to teach me a lot about nature; he would show me different animals, watch documentaries with me, and share his experiences with nature.

I remember watching River Monsters, a documentary by one of my favourite biologists, with my father when I was about three years old. I started loving marine biology first. I still love aquatic animals. My father is my biggest inspiration.

Is biology your favourite subject in school too?

I don’t have biology as a subject in school yet, but I learn biology with the help of my parents through online channels and books, and yes, it is my favourite.

When did you start The Little Biologist blog on Facebook?

We created the page last year; it was my mother who opened it for me because every time I find an animal or go exploring, I have the habit of making a small video clip about the animal or the place we visit. I wanted to share my experiences with others. It is my mother who takes the videos and does the uploading. I try to post one video per week, at least, but if I have more, I ask my mother to upload more often.

How have the responses you receive on your Facebook page been?

I was very happy to see that a lot of kids are following me and sending me messages through their parents, requesting for more videos. I have even got invitations to visit them. Also, I’m happy to know that they are getting to see a lot of animals through my videos as some of the kids are living in houses without a garden.

Do you have any tips for those who are interested in observing nature?

I can say that if you want to observe nature, you can start in your very own garden, even if it is a small one. There are so many creatures around us that we do not pay attention to. Also, Sri Lanka has so many places to visit and observe nature.

Please do not disturb or harm nature when observing. You can observe better if you don’t disturb. Also, make videos and take pictures so that you can share your experiences with someone else. If you are observing an animal, maintain distance; if you are very close to the animal, please make sure that you are aware of whether it can harm you or not. If you watch out for your safety, you don’t have to hurt any animal for your protection. Never remove them from their natural habitats.

You have visited many locations around the country. What are your five most favourite places among these?

My first favourite place is Pasikuda. I love the beach there because I could just walk a long distance into the sea and do a lot of exploring. In fact, I found my first hermit crab also from there.

Then I like the Sinharaja Rainforest. I first visited it on a field trip through the Young Zoologists’ Association when I was four years old and it was my best jungle trekking experience so far.

I have also visited an island in Trincomalee. This was my best island experience because I was able to observe lots of ammonites for the first time.

The Henarathgoda Botanical Garden is one of my favourite places too, and it is the place I visit the most, especially during weekends as I live nearby. I like that place because it has a water area and a big garden area to explore.

Rakawa is also one of my favourite beaches as I have slept overnight on the beach observing the turtles laying eggs, and it was one of the best experiences ever.

Are there any rules you follow when you observe animals?

The first rule is not to harm the animals. Also, it is important to be very quiet when observing so that you don’t disturb them. If the animal is captured to observe, I make sure it is released back to the same area it was found. I first let the animal freely move around and capture it only if I need to have a closer look at its body parts. Also, I wear camouflage clothes, especially when going into jungles. I also make sure that no one litters if I’m travelling in a group.

Don’t you feel afraid to observe different animals?

I have never felt afraid of any animal so far. I mostly know which animals can be closely observed and if I’m not sure, I maintain a distance. Also, when I’m holding an animal, I make sure I hold it from the right body parts and in the correct way so it won’t harm me and I won’t hurt it either.

Do you have any other hobbies? Do you play any sports?

I like swimming and running. I play games, and gardening is one of my biggest hobbies.

What is your ambition?

My ambition is to become a biologist. I think in the future, the world will need more people who would care about and protect nature. I have a dream to conduct research on undiscovered life in the deep oceans. I also want to study more about “megalodons”, which is an extinct species of shark that lived a million years ago.

On your video blog, we can see that since recently your baby brother has been joining your environmental project. What is your advice to him when he comes out with you to explore?

Yes, he joins me for night exploring as well. I mainly tell him not to make noises and especially not to touch any animal he sees as he is still very little (two-and-a-half years). But I get him to touch the animal if it’s harmless and teach him the names of different animals, so that he recognises the animal the next time he sees it.

Do you have any place you still haven’t been to but dream to explore?

My biggest dream is to explore the Pacific Ocean. I know I must grow big and study a lot before I do that. I also like to travel to Madagascar to learn more about a cat-like animal called “fossa”, which I am currently studying a lot about. But in Sri Lanka, there are so many places that I would like to travel to, and my parents have already made a travel list for me. I am hoping to travel to these places in Sri Lanka first and observe more and more.


Photo Eshan Dasanayaka