In last week’s column, I delved on researcher Kedar Bhide’s travails while answering nature’s call and confronting nosy pigs in Arunachal Pradesh. Well, Bhide says that Arunachal was child’s play when compared to Ladakh.
Over to Bhide’s tale of woes and wit from Ladakh: “I love to photograph Changthang plains at 15,000 feet in winter when temperatures drop to -30°. Relieving yourself in the open is like going blind to shoot a target. Once you lose sensation of your butt after freezing, there is nothing you can do.
Then you understand, how important small sensations are, which tell you the details of functional responses. So, you can only time your functions and think that you have completed them.... And the funny situation is this could be my slowest de-panting and fastest re-panting activity till date. The other challenge is to use ‘sand paper’. Yes, your toilet paper becomes so hard due to the freeze that it feels like you are scraping your butt with sand paper.
The only thing you understand then is those drops of blood on the paper and then you have a problem sitting on any surface, in the tent, in the car, etc., as it will remind you of a bed of needles, like the arrow bed of Bhishma in Mahabharata! So, what I am saying here is: there is fun most of the times as flowing breeze cools your less exposed parts but in some situations it’s more of a challenge and extracts the maximum out of your thinking and coping-up parts.’’
TO SIR, WITH LOVE
The success of wildlife conservation movements ultimately depends on how well people induct these values into their daily lives. It is with this objective in view that the Nature Conservation Society (NCS) headed by former Punjab chief wildlife warden Gurmit Singh organised a sensitisation programme for children of Sainik School, Kapurthala, and International Fateh Academy, Jandiala Guru, Amritsar.
Along with retired additional director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, and NCS general-secretary BS Gurm, Singh showed wildlife films to kids and staged a quiz for them. Photo By: BS Gurm
A lecture was delivered on migratory birds visiting the Harike wildlife sanctuary and the factors affecting them such as pollution, siltation and encroachment by land mafia. The students were then taken to Harike and shown birds with a long-range spotting scope. Students and teachers took a pledge at Harike to protect wildlife and undertake every effort to conserve their environment. Singh’s only note of regret in this educative excursion to Harike was the uncooperative attitude wildlife officials displayed towards visiting kids. Interestingly, the spotting scope that Singh used is the one gifted to him by Swedish ornithologist Per Undeland, who is credited with avian-mapping Harike and discovering new species in Harike and Punjab in the 1990s. Singh has also worked with India’s legendary birdman, the late Dr Salim Ali, and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) during the four-year bird ringing programme at Harike that started in 1980.
TIGERS HATE BIG BORES
Whenever a tiger or leopard kills a human, the hunters lobby exerts undue pressure on the state’s chief wildlife warden to have the animal declared a man-eater so that they can indulge in trophy hunting under the noble guise of ridding man-eaters. Hunters with all kinds of weapons such as .12 bore shotguns and light rifles will jump into the fray. Recent episodes of man-eaters in Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh have seen hunting permits granted to those armed with weapons grossly under-powered for tigers/leopards. Keeping these aspects in view, the National Tiger Conservation Authority issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) specifying that only a rifle chambered for not less than a .375 Magnum cartridge be allowed for hunting man-eaters.
A .375 Magnum rifle. Photo: hollandandholland.com
Explaining the logic to this writer, NTCA’s joint director SP Yadav stated: “The SOP requires the state government to use its own wildlife personnel trained to hunt down man-eaters. This will obviate the need to requisition private hunters, who pose with the trophies and create a negative impression for wildlife conservation. Using a rifle of .375 Magnum bore or more will ensure that the bullet has adequate stopping power and kills the animal. Often such man-eaters are cornered in populated areas, and if the bullet is not powerful enough to kill the animal, the wounded man-eater can create havoc with people. Leaving an animal wounded with a light bullet also leads to a lingering and cruel death for the animal. Chasing down a wounded man-eater is an added complication. The NTCA is a statutory body and its SOP has to be enforced by the states. Any violation of the SOP will be construed as a violation akin to that under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.’’