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Pythons rock the garden

chandigarh Updated: Aug 12, 2013 19:27 IST

Last month, a spectacled cobra was found coyly coiled in Rock Garden creator Nek Chand's home. Chand was terrorised. He feared cobras may not spare an old man like him. Fact is there have been no snakebites at Rock Garden though serpents have in droves taken fancy to it, like the Biblical one did to Adam and Eve's green patch.

Two Indian Rock python hatchlings (1.5 feet) slithered under gate no. 3 (Kaimbwala side) at night last week. When the garden staffers, Ganesh and Desh Raj, came the next morning to park their bicycles near the guard rooms, the pythons were found curled up in the corners. The hatchlings had wandered in from a marsh outside the gate. (Pythons lay between 10 and 107 eggs from March to June with an incubation of 60-70 days.)

Snake-rescue expert Salim Khan was summoned and he removed the hatchlings. Talk about serpents visiting VIPs: a rat snake hatchling surfaced in the chief justice's bungalow garden in Chandigarh's Sector 4 on August 7. The gardeners pounced on it, put it in a bottle, and handed it over to Khan.

And, not to forget, a serpent did surface in the real eves' garden! A rat snake (6 feet), who was feeling rather cosy in the garage of principal Achla Dogra at the Government College for Girls, Sector 11, was rescued by Khan on August 7.

Hooked on turtle necks

It would surprise many that nine turtle species are covered under schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Poaching such turtles invites punishment at par with killing tigers.

Some fascinating rescue work has been done by Prayas Team Environment (PTE) in Surat (Gujarat), which has conducted surgeries on seven Indian soft-shelled turtles that had fishing hooks in their necks. Such turtles, which would have otherwise suffered a writhing death, were brought to the PTE hospital by fishermen themselves who had hooked turtles by mistake.

PTE's Darshan Desai says a turtle has a six-inch neck, which stubbornly retracts deep inside the shell. Handling the turtle for surgery is no mean task as it bites viciously, and the neck is slippery to hold.

Picture Courtesy: Prayas Team Environment

Dr PS Chowdhary's team uses X-rays to zero in on the hook's location. Then, under partial anaesthesia, the turtle's neck is teased out of its shell, a 2-3 mm cut made, and the hook extracted after slicing it from the fishing line. All this requires unimaginably deft handling and experience as a turtle can die from trauma during surgery.

The good thing is that turtles are sturdy, and being cold-blooded, recover speedily after surgery.

Got his goatee

The leopard ranging in the jungles of Nagal village, lying off the PGIMER-Mullanpur-Parol road, has for the first time killed near human habitation. Last week, it jumped into the goat pen of graziers, Gajjan and Jeet, in Chhoti Nagal at 12.30 am. The pen is 40 yards from Gajjan's house and located on the jungle's edge, nestling under a forested cliff. The leopard accessed the pen, open from the top, by jumping down from this cliff (see photo). It killed one goat, and injured two more.

One injured goat died later, while the leopard took away the dead one and relished it in a nearby nullah.

Picture Courtesy:Alpana NP Singh

The Punjab wildlife department has placed a cage to trap the leopard in front of the empty pen. A few days before that, two goats belonging to Lajja Ram (who had lost a bitch, Doggie, to the same leopard) were also killed but this happened deep in jungle where grazing is banned.

Though Gajjan deserves compensation for his goats' loss (Rs 20,000), babus and government doctors are putting hurdles in the way. This frustrates villagers and turns them into wildlife haters.

On wings of a dream

The other day, while walking among a profusion of wild monsoon blooms, I overheard flowers speaking softly among themselves. Their secret yearnings were to break free from green-stemmed chains and fly. One flower confided that when she drew her petals into a shroud at night and dreamt in its comfort, it was a butterfly that she had turned into. Poetic imagination, too, does not see butterflies as butterflies: it visualises them as flying flowers.

Picture Courtesy:Bubesh Guptha

Butterflies can fly at will, and when they alight on mud they resemble a cluster of blooms. Butterflies embody a vivid paradox. Gorgeous wings flutter as if fashioned from coy, angelic eyelashes. Yet, wings are fastened to an ugly body that pokes deep into flowers for nectar, and appears contrastingly as a Lucifer incarnate.

Musings aside, male butterflies can be seen best indulging in mud-puddling or dowry collection during monsoons. They toil to extract salts/ minerals/ nitrates from mud. The saltier a butterfly gets, the more females it bags! These are transferred to females with spermatophores during mating as a nuptial gift. This nutrition enhances eggs' survival rate.