A dear friend

  • Vikram Jit Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jun 07, 2014 23:15 IST

In the accompanying picture, it does seem that the bird peering into the deer's ear has much to crow about. Maybe this clever bird conveys the gossip of the Sukhna lake forest's wild denizens. The sambar's relaxed posture seems to convey to the House crow that "you do indeed have my ear"! Wildlife photographer, Sarabjit Lehal, captured this memorable moment of a symbiotic relationship after hours of patient vigil. Lehal described the moments thus: "I was sitting at a waterhole.

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Photo: Sarabjit Lehal

The sambar herd arrived, gradually accepted my presence there, and started inching ahead. They grazed and then bedded down. The key was me not making any noise or sudden movements. A group of crows moved in and started picking ticks off the resting sambar. After having my fill of pictures, I quietly gathered my gear and slunked away, with the herd still sitting by the waterhole." Crows and Rufous treepies are to be found picking ticks off buffaloes and camels in villages outside Chandigarh. According to wildlife biologist Dharmendra Khandal, treepies/crows "feed on ectoparasites (mites, ticks, lice, fleas etc.) from animals like sambhars. Ectoparasites are found on the coat of animals, attached to the hair follicles". On an afternoon ramble in the Siswan dam jungles, I witnessed an amazing synergy between a sambar fawn and a treepie. The fawn was splashing around alone in a swamp when I chanced upon it. The fawn came out of water and instead of making a dash for cover, just kept staring at me. The fawn's regular mate, a treepie, seized the opportunity and alighted on its still back. The treepie soon sensed the fawn's jitters and spotted me. It flew off the fawn's back and alighted on a low branch over me and raised a cacophony of alarm cries, which were also laced with much indignation at my presence as I had breached the sanctum sanctorum of the jungle where few humans venture. The fawn took the cue from his friend and beat a quick retreat.

In hiss pants

When the world sleeps, snakes do keep their tryst with destiny's dark holes! That is, to wriggle into the oddest and most private of places. Snake rescue expert, Rahul Naik, reports a perfect example of the ground reality in India's slumbering villages. The incident took place in Sinnar taluka, Nashik (Maharashtra). After a day's toil, farmer, Yogesh Gunjal, came home for dinner and went to sleep outside due to cooler temperatures. At midnight, Gunjal felt something in his pants and realised there was a snake. Keeping his presence of mind, Gunjal tightly grabbed the head of the snake moving in his pants and started hollering for his relatives. A knee-jerk reaction would have been an attempt to take his pants off in a tearing hurry and give the equally terrified snake the chance to bite real hard. It took a few minutes for Gunjal's relatives to grasp the situation and they called the neighbours for help. After going into a huddle, the group decided to slice Gunjals' pants with a blade even as Gunjal hung onto his pants and the snake's head for dear life. After the pants were sliced through, Gunjal threw the snake away. The snake raised its hood and the gathering realised it was a Spectacled Cobra. The enormity of the situation hit them now. The cobra was killed and taken to hospital along with Gunjal so that doctors could confirm the snake species. Gunjal was kept under observation for 24 hours. Wonder of wonders that Gunjal had not been bitten as doctors found ejected venom smeared harmlessly on Gunjal's thighs.

It is only love that can impel a man to search so deep and so dangerous for little, lost lilies. In 1886, J.F. Duthie and J.R. Reid had collected plants in the river Kali's valley, which lies deep in the Uttarakhand mountains and enroute to Kailash-Mansarovar. On the basis of those specimens, a new lily species, Dipcadi reidii, was established.

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Photo: Dr. DS Rawat

But the species was never collected or seen by any other human after 1886 and this led to the assumption that it had gone extinct (in the Red Data Book of Indian Plants and the 1997 IUCN Redlist of Threatened Plants). But eminent botanist, Dr. DS Rawat, and his student, Satish Chandra, have rediscovered this lily species after a thrilling trek of 45 km in July 2013 to the Kali valley just after the rivers went on the rampage. Dr. Rawat declared his discovery to the world only on June 5, 2014, after it was authenticated by a scientific peer review. The trek to re-discover the lost species was certainly not the one for lily-livered explorers. The lily grows just above the lost village of Malipa, which was buried under a rockfall in 1998 and where danseuse, Protima Bedi, lost her life. Dr. Rawat describes how his team hid under a rock shelter to avoid frequent landslides. They crossed glacial crevices with little basic safety equipment, furious rivers hanging on a wire, and torrential streams by doing a tightrope act across disused electricity poles that were laid to connect rocks high above surging water!

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