In December 1987, I met Thakur Hira Singh, an articulate shikari residing near the open jail at Chorgalia, Tanakpur, in the erstwhile state of Uttar Pradesh. He showed me a mesmerising, wickedly-curving pair of wild boar tusks - each 9.5 inches. .
Singh extracted these after a Mahabharat war between the two most pugnacious characters of the Terai jungles - a tiger and a boar. The fight had raged nightlong, and all kinds of enraged sounds shattered the serenity. The boar died, and it was evident the tiger had staggered away only with its pride intact.
Singh swore that shikaris hesitated to fire upon huge, irascible boars living alone. I can vouch for that trepidation. In the winter of 1978, Flying Sikh Milkha Singh was hunting in the Kalesar jungles near Yamunanagar. A very large boar appeared. I was sitting along with him and Jeev in a hideout. The Flying Sikh held his fire, apprehending that he were to only wound the old rascal, the consequences would be a heedless, full-blooded charge. A boar is formidably equipped with an armour-plated hide and bristles.
The late author, Col Kesri Singh of Jaipur, narrated how a boar and tiger died in a fight near Gwalior. Col Singh penned the boar's fighting qualities thus, "In fights against carnivores, the boar uses the momentum of his charge, and strong muscles, to lunge under the opponent's body to bite and gore into his vulnerable stomach. The boar normally uses his tusks, and forepaws, to dig into ground for eating worms and grubs."
The erstwhile nobility of Rajputana would stage amphitheatre fights between boars and tigers or leopards to entertain dignitaries such as British notables. Photographic records of such encounters in the wild are very rare. But in Lanka's Yala National Park, boars killed a leopard after tossing it about like a chicken (see photo) and biting into its belly. A chance witness superbly captured this for posterity.
Golfers shooting birdies
Pharma industrialist Jagdeep Singh Grewal was a reputed marksman of yore. A contemporary conservationist and former member of the Punjab State Wildlife Advisory Board, Grewal now contents himself by counting finches and flycatchers at golf courses.
Playing recently at the Shiwalik Golf Course, Chandimandir, Grewal fired his Callaway 3-wood in an effort to sail over the nullah at the 12th hole, nicknamed "Grand Canyon" by jittery golfers. The ball did not quite acquire the towering flight Grewal intended and the mishit ball rifled low like a high muzzle velocity, flat trajectory bullet.
The Titleist ProV1x ball crashed into a short, leafy tree straddling the nullah where Jungle babblers and Rufous treepies were making merry. The sound that a ball normally makes when striking a tree branch was not heard, emitting instead a sickening thud of soft flesh and feathers getting pulverised. A treepie dropped stone-dead. While the rest of the birds scattered in fright, the treepie's mate was onto the dead bird in a second and arched over the lifeless fluff of feathers like a grieving lady, but flew off when caddies approached. Such avian martyrs at golf courses include the black drongo, Egret, red-wattled lapwing, white-cheeked bulbul, yellow-eyed pigeon and babbler.
Casualties have increased as hi-tech golf equipment drives errant balls at brutish velocities. Such unintentional killings - affected by what is actually poor golfing marksmanship - do lend themselves to some grim, ironical puns deriving from the tee time expression, "shooting birdies". Especially so, when monsoons have made bagging the real golfing birdies a tough task indeed!
All's well that ends well
These green-eyed kittens of the jungle cat fell into a 50-ft well at Bahara village near Nawanshahr (Punjab) and were stranded for 48 hours. Remarkably, they had no bone injury but wailed wildly and created an echoing commotion after finding themselves down, and out of mama's reach.
The sarpanch summoned Nikhil Sanger of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who has to his credit a staggering 300 rescues from wells of snakes, monitor lizards, mongrel pups etc. Such rescues are especially hazardous when a venomous snake has fallen in during the night. Naked power wires and poisonous gases emitted from well bottoms compound the challenge. Sanger wears a helmet and has a safety rope attached to his body when he goes down because a well's crumbling masonry could just drop dead on his head.
He rescued the kittens in what was a relatively easy operation and took them home. These were unlike the purring, friendly kittens we know. The rescued kittens bared their teeth, hissed at Sanger, and refused to eat the boiled chicken and "paneer" he offered them. But the kittens quickly gobbled the titbits once he left the room!
After two days, Sanger rehabilitated the kittens in fields close to that well. Jungle cats are a widely distributed species and adapt to irrigated agrarian ecosystems. They are masters in hunting field rodents, strike swiftly and boldly, and are exceedingly strong for their size. However, village/tribal poachers harbour a secret fetish: they readily kill Jungle cats as their flesh is believed to cure impotency!
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