A FRIEND REQUEST | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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chandigarh Updated: Feb 16, 2014 10:40 IST
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Snakebites rank among the most complicated of medical emergencies. But thanks to the marvels of cellphones, emails and Facebook, a young Tamil student’s life was saved. One of the most informative and participative wildlife groups is IndianSnakes on Facebook. Its Tamil Nadu member, Nitesh Anandan, received a call from his friend, Vicky, who is studying civil engineering at the Lovely Professional University near Jalandhar.

He informed that he had been bitten by a snake while walking in the farmlands behind the university. Vicky’s friends had the foresight to trap the snake in a bottle, left it there, and rushed Vicky to a local hospital. However, the doctor there wrongly ascribed the bite to that of the non-venomous Common Trinket snake and did not administer an anti-snake venom (ASV) serum to him.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2014/1/vickey_compressed.jpg However, Vicky started vomitting, a sure sign of envenomation. Anandan quickly got in touch with Jose Louies and Vivek Sharma, the administrators of IndianSnakes. A snake-rescue expert was located in Jalandhar and dispatched to the spot where Vicky had been bitten. The snake was captured and its photographs emailed to Sharma in Jabalpur, who identified it as a Common krait, India’s most venomous snake whose neurotoxic venom leads to a breakdown of the nervous system. Meanwhile, Louies, who was in Kanpur, located Sacred Heart Hospital in Jalandhar which is equipped to treat snakebite, on the internet. (PHOTO COURTESY: Nitesh Anandan)

Louies telephonically informed this hospital that a snakebite emergency was on the way. Sharma passed this information to Anandan, who in turn intimated Vicky’s friends. Vicky was transferred to this hospital and put on ASV serum. It took him two days of hospitalisation to recover.


Richness of colour. Ample-bodied and fleshy. The ease with which it grows. Its teasing fragrance. Ah! The ‘Gainda’ (Marigold) is a bloom par excellence. This is a flower whose orange abundance lights up weddings and festivities just as it pays silent homage and matches the colours of the plumes that drift from the pyres of death. Its common occurrence, perhaps, erodes this flower’s loveliness and distinctive character. I was, therefore, charmed by sprawling clumps of Gaindas blooming wild near the budding wheat fields at Saketri.


I sought the expertise of botanists of the renowned group, efloraofindia, to know more about the wild escapades of the Gainda! According to Dr Gurcharan Singh, Gainda is botanically known as Tagetes erecta from the family of Asteraceae (Compositae). "It is not uncommon to see Gainda along field borders, sewage dumps and wastelands. The plants uprooted from cultivation and thrown away do have some mature fruits (single-seeded) known as cypselae, which germinate to produce new plants.

Even a discarded mature plant may take root (as this plant has a heavy bunch of roots) and establish at a neglected place,” informs Dr Gurcharan. Gurumurthi Hegde further informs us that Gainda is a “bio-pesticide, planted along the periphery of croplands (mainly maize, cotton and corn) in Karnataka to repel crop pests. Dual benefits to the farmer who gets bio-control of pests and economical floriculture.’’ (PHOTO COURTESY: Vikram Jit Singh)

Dr Gurcharan narrates a lesser known side to Gainda. His young niece, aged 5, once started smelling Gaindas very closely in his garden. She got a headache and almost fainted but luckily revived soon. Reacting to Dr Gurcharan’s anecdote, Hegde explained, “It happens with strongly-scented flowers such as Pandanus, Mammea suriga and even Champa.

But it is interesting to know that this happened with Marigold! Maybe, the pollen cloud of Marigold caused it, as they do in Chromolaena odorata. Or, there is a chance she smelt the Marigold’s strongly-odoured tender leaves and involucre, which causes a headache.”


You can do some real bird-watching on the side on Valentine’s Day! February 14 flagged off a special event - the four-day global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Nature-lovers spend 15 minutes or more looking for birds wherever they are, (at road corners, balcony, park, lake, anywhere!), noting down numbers of each species and uploading their list(s) to www.ebird.org.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2014/1/little_compressed.jpgThis count has been organised since 1998 by the US-based Cornell Lab of Ornithology. There are 10,324 bird species in the world and the 2013 GBBC recorded 4,258 of these.

In India, 202 participants counted more than 80,000 birds and over 500 bird species in the 2013 GBBC. Participation from a 100 nations is expected in GBBC 2014.

The information gathered by volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible.

The GBBC opens a doorway to wildlife conservation for hobbyists and enthusiasts. (PHOTO COURTESY: KALYAN VERMA)

They gain entry to a scientific endeavour and achieve a connect with each other across nations, regions and neighbourhoods.