An afternoon ramble down the Sukhna Lake nature trail is an exercise in tranquility. Only the chirping of birds and an occasional bellow of a Sambar break the silence. Therefore, I was surprised when I heard heavy panting from the bushes. After a minute, out dashed a wild boar piglet, with its lower jaw bloodied and hanging down.
The piglet was running around in a complete daze. That confirmed earlier reports I had received from kids of Kaimbawala village behind the Sukhna Lake that poachers were regularly using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to kill boars and Sambars. Guards of the UT forests and wildlife department deployed at the Sukhna Reserve Forest also told me that they would hear blasts at night while guarding saplings from marauding wild animals.
Poachers booby-trap fields and game trails with IEDs that tempt animals with a coating of maize and kneaded wheat flour. IEDs are made from common material such as ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate, glycerine and even urea. Poachers improvise upon the chemical mix by adding the coal used by 'dhobis' for ironing clothes.
A dash of Diwali cracker 'masalas' are used to trigger off the blast once the animal starts to gnaw at the IED. Shards of glass and cobbler nails are added for lethal impact. Some IEDs are triggered off by the action of animal saliva on the chemicals contained in the IED as these react to liquid.
The IED is tied up with jute or gunny bag strings and some wily poachers even give it an outer layer of jaggery to lure boars. Death is inevitable and acutely painful for such animals.
GREENWASHING THE IMAGE
Have you seen vultures hissing and squabbling over a dead cow's body? Or for that matter, hordes of carp fish maintained at the Panchkula Golf Club's water bodies that fight over bread crumbs thrown at them like politicians do for the loaves of office? Well, you just might have an idea of the sparring that has broken out in the influential birdwatching community of Delhi over organising the bird race in February 2014, an event where teams scurry from dawn to dusk to count maximum number of bird species and win prizes.
Delhi traditionally held one race, the Big Bird Day (due for February 16). But since last year, a senior birdwatcher aligned with HSBC Bank started off a breakaway, a bank-sponsored event - the Delhi Bird Race - with prizes, dinner and much more. The Chandigarh birders are aligned with the HSBC faction and have scheduled their event on February 9.
Apart from trading of personal allegations among the two Delhi groups that include sarcastic expressions such as monopoly of the old 'birding czars' countered by accusations of raking in corporate freebies, the serious issue at stake is the 'green' credentials of such corporates. Those opposed to the sponsored race argue with cited facts that the bank was accused of money-laundering and funding environmentally-harmful projects.
Such as the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze river in China that threatens wild species including critically-endangered Siberian cranes. The bird race was hence being used to 'greenwash' HSBC's image. Tailpiece: It is learnt from 'high-placed sources' that some birds with a human bent of mind are discreetly soliciting birders with offers to present themselves at the right spots, at the right time, for the right team, for the right amount of gratification!
THE JUNGLEE KIDS
Our children have been so side-tracked by indoor distractions and digitalised games that the outdoors are a low priority on the playlist. I was pleasantly surprised how much little girls and boys were enthused by excursions into the rich jungles that ring the tricity. I enjoy taking my kids and their friends with me on treks across farmlands and the Lower Shiwaliks.
Whenever I ask my daughter and son to come with me, they get bored. But with their friends along, all the kids enjoy the trip and many curious questions emanate from their delightful chatter. How far do migratory birds fly from Siberia to come to India? Do they nest in India as it is warmer here for their babies? Why are this tree's roots orange in colour? Why does the snake shed its skin? Can a leopard attack us? What will we do if a leopard attacks? The junglee kids, as I call them, were charmed by the 'machaans' farmers have built to guard fields at night, and insisted on clambering aboard and posing for pictures.
The kids have proved pretty tough, too, as they scramble up wild hillsides that tear and bloody their delicate skins. One kid even got hurt in the eye by a tree branch but she bravely insisted on continuing the trek. We take a picnic lunch along with us and kids delight in perching on hillsides and gobbling the goodies.
They not only insist on clearing up their litter for disposal in a city dustbin but want to clean up litter left behind by irresponsible visitors to the jungle. I never insist on kids remembering the names and other technicalities of wild species. To nurture an interest in nature, it must be loads of fun for the kids shorn of the pomposity of a school master's lectures and the compulsion of rote learning.