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Wildbuzz: Big boars & bolt actions in war

chandigarh Updated: Sep 09, 2015 11:27 IST
1965 War

A Gaur shot by Col. Michigan with a .455 double-barrel rifle in 1970 in the Sathyamangalam forests, Tamil Nadu. To the right of Col. Michigan is then 2nd Lt. Sarbjit S. Randhawa. The Gaur was hit on the shoulder with the first shot but ran 10 km. The wounded Gaur was delivered a coup de grace with a .30 calibre weapon and the .455 rifle. The Gaur's head is on display at the OTA Officers' Mess, Chennai. Photo credit: RANDHAWA FAMILY ARCHIVE


Soldiers deployed in hostile territory are oft at war with the wilderness. Well, here are two encounters with wild boars from two wars and involving two closely-related army officers! In the 1965 War, Brig Sant Singh (MVC & Bar) was commanding the 5 Sikh LI in Naushera. He had deployed a counter-infiltration, night ambush within no-man's land on the LoC. Brig Singh, now settled in Chandigarh's Sector 36, recounts that his ambush party faced a piquant situation when a huge boar arrived, and charged into the ambush!

The boar is revered by shikaris as it possesses the heart of a tiger and its flanks are armour-plated with fat, hide and bristles. The disciplined soldiers, who did not want to alert the enemy, held fire and killed the pugnacious boar with bayonets. They sawed off the head and presented it to their CO the next morning as proof of their deed!

Contrast this fire discipline with what Brig Singh's son-in-law, Brig Sarbjit S Randhawa (retd), faced during the 1971 War in the Shakargarh Bulge sector (Kathua). As a Second Lieutenant with an infantry battalion, Randhawa was tasked to assault a border outpost (BOP) captured by Pakistan across rivers Ujh and Tarana. The sarkanda marshes were teeming with boars and neelgais. As soldiers advanced in darkness, a sounder of pigs dashed towards them. One jawan opened fire with his 7.62-mm rifle. All hell broke loose, others joined him, and three boars lay dead, including a suckling piglet. Lurking thoughts of succulent 'langar' rations or 'peg-sheg-leg' had ambushed their military minds!

The Pakis also opened fire. The attack direction lay exposed. The soldiers relaunched attack from another direction, which worked out well. They found a narrow track to the BOP and had by now gauged Pak firing positions. Meanwhile, the boar hunt had misled Pakis to focus fire at the abandoned attack line. Result was the Pakis were taken by surprise, and without further ado and leaving weapons behind, they bolted from the BOP at an Usain speed only jackals can muster!



Kyrgyz Express Post (KEP) of Kyrgyzstan has issued stamps dealing with falconry, an art of hunting recognised by UNESCO in its 'Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity'. Falconry has deep resonance in the cultural history of the Sikh Gurus and the sub-continent's nobility of yore. PHOTO: KYRGYZ EXPRESS POST

In continuation of earlier columns that carried reviews of Chhatbir Zoo’s Rs 56 lakh raptor facility/enclosure, and its suitability as a proposed breeding centre for Shaheen falcons and Northern goshawks, I detail this week the comments of Dr Munir Virani of The Peregrine Fund. Dr Virani, who had visited the zoo, says: “Ideally, captive breeding and management should be a last resort, when all other means to ensure survival in the wild have failed. Likewise, with the Shaheen, or any other species, it will be important to have a long-term strategy for captive breeding.

For example, because very little is known about Shaheen movements, ecology and especially factors responsible for their population decline, releasing young birds in the wild from a captive stock can help answer many questions, but this is best done when studied in the wild. The zoo has adequate and sufficient facilities to develop a Shaheen breeding centre. The current (zoo) enclosure needs to be further refined and developed specifically for breeding falcons and must be done with consultations with established and recognised falconers.”

"From The Peregrine Fund perspective, India is blessed with a tremendous diversity of raptors and a growing interest in their conservation. The fact that governments of South Asia can ban a veterinary drug (diclofenac) for causing vulture population declines says a lot about their commitment for conservation. We would like to see more natural history studies being done on raptors, especially those that are little known," added Virani.



Cobra hatchling emerges from an egg at village Mussapur, Nawanshahr. PHOTO: NIKHIL SANGER

Spectacled cobra females, like Common kraits, invariably lay eggs (up to 30) in human habitation or its proximity. Snake-rescue expert Nikhil Sanger has discovered cobra eggs 1-2 feet below in old houses, cattle sheds, dung piles, haystacks and farm backyards, where soil is soft and humid, and in hollows of agrarian field boundaries. Females check eggs frequently but do not assist in the hatching, which takes place in batches over a couple of days in late summer/monsoon. Eggs are covered in a mucous-like layer, and the first signs of hatching are the strains and tensions visible on the egg surface, says Sanger. He recently rescued two hatchlings from the residence of a Nawanshahr sessions judge.