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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Risk of a nasty nip

Vikram Jit Singh   August 02, 2014
First Published: 22:40 IST(2/8/2014) | Last Updated: 23:14 IST(2/8/2014)

RISK OF A NASTY NIP

If a householder had not known the difference between a rat's tail and that of a spectacled cobra, there could have been an occasion for some deadly nips to be delivered while answering nature's call!!! A rat seeking refuge from a cobra in hot pursuit dived into the toilet hole of Sita Raman's house in the HRBR Layout, Bangalore. Raman noticed a snake's tail disappearing under the toilet's door and rang up snake-rescue expert, Mohan Krish.

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                                                                                                                  PHOTO: MOHAN KRISH

Mohan arrived and flushed some water down the toilet and within a few minutes, the beleaguered rat came scampering out of the hole. It bore a terrified look and froze just after coming out allowing Mohan to click a memorable picture (see photo). Mohan then retreated from the toilet and the obliging rat scurried off from its benefactor's presence. The rat had sought refuge in one of the two pipes running underground from the toilet. Seeing the rat, Mohan felt Raman may have mistaken a rat's tail and raised a snake alarm. But Raman was emphatic as he knew a snake's tail was markedly different from a rat's tail that has hair follicles.

Now came the technical part of how to flush the cobra out of the sewerage system underneath. Mohan very intelligently got the sewerage chamber opened, blocked it from the end that leads to the public sewers and then inserted a hose into the six-inch-diameter pipe that flushes human excreta from the Indian-style toilet seat so as to prod the snake from one end. He backed this by flushing water down the toilet hole. Mohan knew the cobra would get activated and by instinct swim against the water's current. Presto! The cobra came out of the toilet hole, all of five feet in glorious length. Another great photo-op.

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                                                                                                                PHOTO: MOHAN KRISH

Mohan's rescue operation had removed the danger to the private parts from surprise ambushes. The toilet was declared a no-risk zone!

Mohan has rescued over 12,000 snakes in 19 years of such work, which also includes working with wounded and dead stray dogs on the roads. His noble work for the under-privileged and voiceless creatures extends to humans as he ensures proper disposal and last rites for dead beggars and street-dwellers, whose bodies lie uncared for and unclaimed by the wayside as humanity zooms by.
 
INDIAN CHICKS ARE COOL!

Raptors are among those groups of birds facing the most rapid declines. But a fine effort by Jaipur-based Harkirat Singh Sangha has resulted in the discovery of the first breeding record in India of the Eastern Saker falcon (Falco cherrug milvipes), a very large falcon prized through history and by Arab sheikhs for its prowess in hawking and in this respect second only to the Northern goshawk and the Peregrine falcon. Sangha photographed a nest high up on a cliff near Tsokar in Ladakh with four chicks in July 2014. He contends that this falcon was one of the raptors associated with the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, who was passionate about hawking.

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CAPTION: Saker chicks near Tsokar.                                            PHOTO: Harkirat S. Sangha

Raptor expert Rishad Naoroji had stated in 2006 that this falcon may possibly be breeding in Ladakh and had described it as a "passage migrant" though Sangha contends that the nesting record establishes it as a "scarce resident". What lends significance to the Indian breeding record is the observation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN): "This species has been uplisted to endangered because a revised population trend analysis indicates that it may be undergoing a very rapid decline.

This negative trend is a result of unsustainable capture for the falconry trade, as well as habitat degradation and the impacts of agrochemicals, and the rate of decline appears to be particularly severe in the species's central Asian breeding grounds."

The saker has a wide wing span for its size. They have been used as reliable and fast messengers to deliver letters in Mongolia, and were given as special gifts to khans (kings) and rulers by visitors from distant lands to their courts. Even gazelle were taken by this falcon. Hounds were trained to hunt in tandem with saker pairs. By clinging on the gazelle's ear, the saker distracted it and delayed its run long enough for hounds to catch up.
 

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