NATURE’S CLOSE CALLS
Those exploring the jungle face the torture of answering nature’s call in acute discomfort. A witty narrative comes from researcher Kedar Bhide when he discovered the first record in India of Kaulback’s Pit viper in Arunachal Pradesh.
Let us hear this in Bhide’s own words: “Every morning meant preparing for battle. Not with your internal muscles but with village pigs. I don’t know how pigs understood the objective of my going out, may be they related it to the water bottle in my hand or some other trigger points, but they would be ready to follow me. Here you are, sitting with a stick in hand, and pigs standing in a circle around you waiting for you to do your thing. Your attention will be on hitting and shooing them away, and it used to be a race between my business-delivery expertise and their demand-process expertise. I mastered the technique to beat the pigs.
I called it a cross-butterfly technique, only instead of taking from every flower like butterflies, you should distribute your load across various points, so that you are ahead of the pigs. I remember once jumping many feet in the air after getting a moist sensation on my butt. (Ilustration: Daljeet Kaur Sandhu/HT)
I can tell you there is nothing more disgusting than pig-nasal touch! Then, there is a black fly called `Damdum’, which is active after sunrise and attracted to those parts of the skin which are generally covered. Their bite gives itching and bleeding sores. Most of my insect repellent was used as a butt-cream before venturing out. There is a good idea in this for those wanting to invent an `insect net’ for the butt, like they have one for the head. The only problem will be designing the opening in that net. I haven’t been able to figure a way yet!”
KISS OF DEATH
The venomous Russell’s viper is often confused with the non-venomous Rock python, with disastrous results to the human handler. At other times, a fit of machismo or drunkenness induces humans to play around with these vipers and pose for pictures that tantalise the viewer but are strictly non-permissible as these violate norms for handling snakes and are fraught with risk.
Two such cases arose last week. Sompal, a dog-care personnel at the People For Animal’s shelter at Khudda Lahora village, in a fit of drunkenness, draped a viper around his neck that had come out to bask in the sun. When Salim Khan, tricity’s snake-rescue expert, arrived and attempted to carefully induce the viper into a container, Sompal caught hold of the tail and boasted, “If someone gives me one more peg, I will show how to handle such snakes.’’ Sompal insisted it was a harmless python.
He had to be removed from the spot so that Khan could do his job. Luckily, the viper had not bitten Sompal because he was wearing a thick jacket and it was sluggish due to cold. (A non-permissible handling of viper. Priyanka Nath)
A parallel episode took place on the Sukhna Lake nature trail where UT forest guards excitedly summoned two wildlife photographers to click a ‘python baby’. One impulsive photographer went very close to the ‘baby’. However, scrutiny of photographs later revealed the ‘baby’ to be an adult viper.
CATTLE CLASS BIRDS
The carcass dump at Jor Beer, Bikaner, attracts many winter vultures and eagles, including migratory species. Yet, there is no testing of dead cattle for harmful veterinary drugs such as Diclofenac, Ketoprofene and Aceclofenac, causing high mortality of nature’s premier scavengers.
Ateeb Hussain and Nitin Bhardwaj stumbled upon a Eurasian griffon at Jor Beer whose breath was heavy and beak dripping a white discharge. It died later in a hospital, where the duo rushed it. According to Dr Vibhu Prakash, who leads the captive vulture breeding programme in India, “50% of mortality is because of harmful drugs. Only Meloxicam has been safely tested for vultures. So, we need a system where non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs introduced for veterinary use should be tested on vultures before introduction in the market.
Remember, birds are indicator species and any drug toxic to them will not be entirely safe for humans, though it may afford quick relief.
(Discharge from vulture’s beak. Ateeb Hussain)
A project for such a system was submitted by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute and the Bombay Natural History Society to the Ministry of Environment and Forests some years ago. It would be good if this project is approved, as then, we can prevent such mortalities.
Unsafe drugs are used in most states but are most prevalent in Rajasthan and Gujarat, where dairy farming is extensive. Diclofenac for veterinary use is banned but multi-dose vials for human use are routinely misused in treating cattle, so such vials should be banned.”’