THE MOST VENOMOUS
Late on Wednesday night, my smartphone flashed the caller's name 'Salim Khan'. I presumed it was Khan wanting to inform me of yet another exciting snake rescue or a tragic snakebite. But my heart sank. It was not Khan but a panicky lady blabbering at the other end. I thought my worst fears had come true: after having rescued hundreds of venomous snakes from tricky spots, I thought this time Khan had himself been bitten by one and that his relatives were informing me. However, it was not exactly a venomous snake that had struck Khan. It was MAN, a species that has proved deadlier than the most toxic of slithering serpents.
Khan had been stabbed deep in the abdomen by a drunken, quarrelsome tenant in his sister's house in Nayagaon. Khan was rushed to the PGIMER's Advanced Trauma facility, where a team of competent doctors opened him up without wasting time as he was bleeding heavily. The knife had sliced through Khan's bowels and caused a long wound on the liver. The liver bleed worried the surgeons as it could prove a life-threatening situation. But after a 100-minute surgery and stitching job (Khan is, ironically enough, a tailor by profession!), surgeons declared him out of danger. Khan was perhaps reaping the goodwill of tens of snakebite victims whom he had sent to the PGIMER and saved, much against the wishes of their relatives who preferred quacks.
(Caption: Khan recovering at the PGIMER, Chandigarh. Photo by :Vikram Jit Singh)
Meanwhile, as he recuperates at the PGIMER, his cellphone rings incessantly with emergency calls from people faced with snakes in their homes. But, they will have to wait as it will take this saviour of snakes and humans two weeks to be back in action.
A well-executed operation launched on the night of August 27/28 has resulted in a poacher being nabbed with 25 kg of sambar meat at village Maindipur in the Balachaur area of Punjab. An Indica car (DL 8C G 5565), a double-barrel shotgun licensed in the poacher's name, four cartridges and weighing scales were also seized by the team led by Range Officer (Wildlife), Garshankar, Arvinder Singh Tohra, and included Block Officer, Harjinder Singh, and wildlife guards, Ram Sharan and Jaskaran Singh.
(The arrested poacher with a gun in his hand. Photo by Nikhil Sanger)
"The arrested poacher, Jaspal Singh Bhatra, has been sent to judicial remand and we have booked him under Sections 9, 39, 49 and 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The meat has been sent for testing to the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, while the shotgun has been referred to the forensics laboratory. Bhatra was arrested from his house early morning on August 28,'' said Tohra. The legs of the sambar were also seized from Bhatra's house. Nikhil Sanger, who is a member of the Punjab State Wildlife Advisory Board, suspects that the sambar was poached to sell wild meat on the sly.
(Caption: The seized meat of the poached sambar. Photo by Nikhil Sanger)
A ROYAL MISS
The recent death in Chandigarh of the aged Mohinder Pal, the erstwhile Raja of Kutlehar (Himachal Pradesh), leaves in its wake memories of a grand era. His kingdom extended over thousands of acres of forests guarded by an army of trained personnel. The Kutlehar family would organise grand hunts in their forests that extended to the right of Bhakra dam and deep into Himachal. Tikka Shiv Chand of Bhallan village near Nangal in Punjab was a frequent invitee to these hunts and recollects that the Raja would employ two to three brass bands to drive animals and birds towards waiting guns!
The Tikka, who was himself one of the most well-known of shikari chieftains of 20th century Punjab, has a delightful tale to recount of the time he invited Mohinder Pal and four other hill Rajas for a shoot to Bhallan. The Tikka was a very well organised shikari and his trackers had traced a group of 22 wild boars hiding near the confluence of rivulets in the Swan river area. The royals arrived at 11 am, armed with prized English custom-made guns and rifles. But they wanted gin and beer before the shoot. The Tikka was concerned that if his guests had liquor, their aim would be awry. But the royals were adamant and the Tikka gracefully rustled up the liquor.
The shoot commenced and one by one the 22 boars broke cover and rushed towards the line of royal guns. But as the Tikka had feared, the royals proved to be cock-eyed marksmen under the influence of a 'peg-sheg' too many. They fired close to a 100 rounds and dropped not a single boar! The canny Tikka had placed as a back-up team, five of his local shikaris behind the line of royals. Those shikaris dropped dead eight of the 22 boars that broke through the royal ranks. So, the Tikka did ensure the royals feasted on boar barbecue that night at his mansion at Bhallan. As is their wont, the Rajas had not exerted much to earn that sumptuous feast.