Poop rocks the show

  • vikram jit Singh, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 28, 2014 00:32 IST


The media often splashes images of inert rock pythons with swollen bellies. But few viewers would have seen the aftermath of breaking news: hefty poop pellets that pythons discharge after digestion. Nikhil Sanger of the Wildlife Conservation Society recently rescued a python from a farmer's fields in village Majjuwal Majra along the Shiwaliks in SBS Nagar district (Punjab). The python had swallowed a medium-sized wild boar.


Python poop after a hearty meal! PHOTO: NIKHIL SANGER

Sanger took the python back to his Nawanshahr home to provide it post-trauma relief. Though Sanger thought the python would vomit its prey, the mighty serpent took a liking to Sanger's home and coolly digested the boar over two weeks. As a parting gift, it left Sanger a lot of poop to dispose off! After digestion, Sanger rehabilitated the python in a ‘choe’ close to the spot from where it was rescued.Explaining the python's digestion, snake researcher Kedar Bhide, says: "When the python swallows a prey, a lot of changes happen internally. Its stomach wall gets thicker, its liver expands.


Python with boar in the belly. PHOTO: NIKHIL SANGER

Metabolic rate increases manifold. So, though we see a lethargic python coiled and digesting its prey, internally it is super-active.As large food is not easy to get often so pythons make the most of it whatever they catch a prey. Except prey's hair, everything else is digested."

(PS: Sanger was bitten on his thumb by a spectacled cobra that he was rescuing from water on Friday night near Nawanshahr. The plucky Sanger drove himself to hospital in his Maruti Gypsy and lapsed into coma soon after being admitted due to the venom's neurotoxic effects. Sanger recovered consciousness on Saturday morning and is recuperating after administration of anti-venom doses.)



Emperor Jahangir with hunting bird. PHOTO: PUNJAB DIGITAL LIBRARY

The subject of hunting attracts a fiery, emotional debate. A write-up in the 'Africa Geographic' magazine shows that lady hunters have increased in the US to 1.5 million in 2011, armed as some of them are with pink arrows, bow strings and camouflage. Many of these ladies scour the African bush for trophies much to the ire of their more “sensitive and bitter” counterparts. Hunting was once legal in India and a pet indulgence of men from the highest birth. I wonder what the modern lady hunters of the West would think of this Indian nobleman, who measured the virtues of hunting wildlife vis-a-vis the wild life of clinging to mistresses on a cold night!

In his seminal work, 'Birds of prey of the Indian sub-continent (2006)', Rishad Naoroji delves on the history of hunting and quotes Raja Rudradeva of Kumaun, a contemporary of Akbar. The Raja in his treatise, 'Syenasastra, The Art of Hunting', stated: “The enjoyment of hunting is more exquisite than the enjoyment of women. For, the pleasures of hunting fascinate and draw away even the husband of the woman whose eyes resemble those of the frightened does. If enjoyment were not so exquisite, then why should men forsake their mistresses clinging to their necks, and go abroad in cold nights?”

Naoroji adds that, to the Raja, “Hunting and falconry were considered the last of the 18 addictions, together with fault-finding, gambling, dancing and sleeping during the day.”


The sloth bear enclosure at the Chhatbir zoo has two uninvited guests: house cats that have probably gotten in to forage for rodents. They patrol the dry moat in the enclosure even as the bear is unmindful of their presence. Given the context of the white tiger having killed a man who fell into the moat at the Delhi zoo, I asked the veteran zoo keeper at Chhatbir if the cats were safe. He told me that had the cats been in the adjoining Himalayan black bear enclosure, they would have been exiting the bear's backside as digestive trash. This was the fate of cats, which ventured into the wrong bear species' house!



Puzzled by this differentiation in bear behaviour, I consulted Baiju Raj MV, who runs bear/elephant rescue centres for Wildlife SOS. Baiju confirmed that the zoo keeper was right as the black bear is a known carnivore, can get very ferocious and has been known to attack and kill even mules. On the other hand, said Baiju, the sloth bear is more of a vegetarian/termite eater and its preference for meat is limited to carrion.

So, the zoo cats were safe courtesy the benign rule of the sloth bear, which is otherwise reckoned a most uncouth fellow because of its shaggy appearance.

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