The Zoological Survey of India was established on 1st July, 1916 to promote survey, exploration and research leading to the advancement in our knowledge of the various aspects of the exceptionally rich animal life of the erstwhile `British Indian Empire'. The Survey had its genesis in the establishment of the Zoological Section of the Indian Museum at Calcutta in 1875, where field investigations were not very much encouraged. By gradually strengthening its staff and expanding its research programme, the Survey has met the challenge of the past and is on its way to meet the demands of the future. It has maintained its objective unchanged from its inception. The Survey undertakes no regular teaching but from time to time holds Conferences and Symposia, Training Courses, Workshops and Colloquia. The scientists of the department are constantly exposed to the stimulation of ideas and techniques developed in cognate disciplines by the visiting investigators. For the publication of the results of research carried out in its laboratories, the Survey has its own journals.
Initially the Survey acquired the zoological collections of more than a century old from the former museum (1814-1875) of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and the Zoological Section of the Indian Museum (1875-1916) in Calcutta. With the increasing interest in life sciences and with the advent of the country's Five-Year Plans, the expansion programme of the Survey was initiated. The Survey has so far established sixteen Regional and Field Stations, and has developed into a major National Institution. It functions as the guardian of the National Zoological Collections, containing over a million identified specimens from all animal groups- Protozoa to Mammals. Extensive and intensive field explorations are undertaken by the Survey in different parts of the country for the studies of faunistics, systematic zoology, animal ecology, wild-life, zoogeography, animal behaviour, animal population and also marine fauna. Recently efforts have been made towards an integrated approach to zoological investigations, so as to have a more purpose-oriented research comprising biological, bioethological, cytotaxonomic and ecological aspects. Despite the inclusion of other areas of research in the Institution's programme, taxonomy continues to occupy a prominent role. There is an increasing interest in matters pertaining to animal life on the part of the public, and a constant stream of enquiries continue to pour in, reflecting public confidence in the Institute. The department has never lacked a constant succession of distinguished Zoologists to guide its destiny. The influence of the head of a department naturally counts on the quality and programmes of work of the institute. Fortunately for the Survey, they were/are all eminent taxonomists who, being in charge of the largest department of natural history in the country. had/have the greatest responsibility for their growth and care. Biographies of these illustrious men of science who have added to zoology in not inconsiderable measure,are given. One naturally feels tempted at this stage to ask whether the institution thus founded, developed and nurtured for well over 70 years, has fulfilled its mission. What now is the true function of the Survey in relation to the needs of the country at large? The time has now perhaps arrived when it is essential to secure the proper co-ordination of the institution as a wholeand ensure its harmonious blend with the future so that a comprehensive view of its scope and functions can be adopted.