Wildbuzz: Darlings in the jungle | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Wildbuzz: Darlings in the jungle

chandigarh Updated: Apr 12, 2015 08:18 IST
Stray/village dogs

Darlings in the jungle

Stray/village dogs or free-ranging dogs are killing, traumatising and denying wild species access to water holes as the summer approaches. Some of our wildlife experts, with a partiality for pet dogs, euphemistically describe the hunting styles of such dog packs as recourse to 'tiring down prey'. Urban-based dog advocacy groups shrug off this havoc by blandly declaring such darling dogs as 'part of nature' and their blood lust as just another facet of the jungle's cruel survival.


A Kaleej pheasant rescued on April 7 from a stray dog by the cook, Chuduram, and forest guard, Amar Chand, on the campus of Forest Training Institute & Ranger College, Sundernagar (HP). PHOTO: SHIV KUMAR

Fact is that it is a terrible death, with a prolonged trauma, isolation and death by the proverbial 1,000 vicious bites and blood-curdling snarls. How efficient are these dogs in killing wild species as compared to big cats or wild dogs (dholes)? I asked field researcher, Abi T Vanak (PhD), who has worked extensively on the dog-wildlife conflict in India and Africa.

"The domestication process has rendered dogs less efficient at hunting and killing as compared to wolves. Changes in skeletal structure (smaller heads, smaller jaws, dentition, etc.) and musculature (weaker leg and jaw muscles) make dogs poorer at bringing down large prey. However, the association of dogs with humans have freed them from the survival costs of failure to kill. Even if they are not successful in hunting, they can still obtain food from human sources. Thus, they can reach high densities, and can just by strength of numbers keep targeting large prey," explained Vanak.

"From the prey’s perspective, the pressure from dogs is unrelenting. No sooner has the prey escaped an attack by one pack, another pack comes around. Especially, if the prey is vulnerable (example: isolated fawns), then there is little chance of escape. This does not happen with wild predators that can regulate their densities through both social and spatial means. Since dogs are so poor at actually killing animals once they have cornered them, it is likely to take longer for them to finally bring down large animals like sambar or nilgai. It is likely to result in considerable trauma to the prey before it finally dies from blood loss and shock. On the other hand, wild canids such as wolves or dholes or African wild dogs which have similar hunting tactics (i.e. chasing their prey down) are known to devour their prey quickly, often within minutes of bringing them down. I don’t know of any instance with free-ranging dogs where this holds true!'' said Vanak.

The rose from Kharar


The 'Ladies in Red' from Jas Villa. PHOTO: ABRAHAM JEBARAJ

A profoundly beautiful rose, which bloomed recently at 'Jas Villa', Dashmesh Nagar, Kharar, lent immeasurable delight to the householders. This lovely 'double bloom' also encapsulates a floriculture riddle for the uninitiated. I requested eminent Chandigarh-based botanist SP Khullar to solve this riddle.

He ended up with disrobe of this unusual rose's mystique! "This occurs when at a young stage the growing tip is injured by an insect or even by the vagaries of nature or due to any other reason. The growing cell is damaged partially (not completely). It dichotomises and results in two flowering buds instead of a single one. Such oddities do occur in nature and are of no evolutionary importance. These are just 'twins', though not in the real sense," explained Khullar.

Preying on man!



Young Pallav Pahwa clicked this insect on a guava tree at his residence in Panchkula's Sector 16. Pallav is a graduate in business administration from DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh, and is a nature enthusiast who clicks birds, plants and insects. Nature's beauty charms him. He started off by keeping pet birds but a roving raptor killed them all. His interest grew, and now he keeps food and water for birds and encourages his relatives to follow suit. He is engaged in the family business of selling building materials and electrical goods.

Pallav was intrigued by the identity of this insect. I asked author and expert from the Bombay Natural History Society, Isaac Kehimkar, who identified it as a Praying mantis nymph. The nymph is known to indulge in sexual cannibalism during copulation, and is hence an abiding archetype of the femme fatale. Kehimkar says a mantis is a friend of the farmer as it devours pests.