THE MANEATER RIDDLE
All thanks to the internet, up came a riddle. An alleged maneater was shot at Bunalidhar in Himachal Pradesh on August 21. Photos show one gaping, heavy rifle bullet wound below the leopard's right eye. Now, comes the catch. There are evidently two hunters claiming the kill, and two different rifles that did the job. The controversial Nawab Shafath Ali Khan of Hyderabad, who was asked by the forest and wildlife department to shoot the man-eater that killed three humans, claimed he shot the leopard with a .458 Magnum Winchester rifle.
Then came photos posted on internet gun-enthusiast and hunter forums such as The Gun Geek, NitroExpress, Indians for Guns of the Nawab with his kills, drawing gushing comments and some reasoned debate. Some forums showed his accompanying hunter, Danish A. Jan, posing with three different weapons with the dead leopard! One forum said the leopard was killed with a .375 Mannlicher rifle and showed a smiling Jan with the dead cat. Jan was hard-pressed for a reply as the department had not authorised him to shoot a leopard.
Jan revealed to this writer that when the leopard was shot, villagers posed with an array of weapons with the leopard. The body was pelted with stones and beaten by irate villagers. Jan also posed! Jan confesses that gun forums 'lifted' photos from his Facebook page and attributed the kill wrongly to him, though he ardently wishes he had been given the "honour" to shoot the leopard!
SHIVA'S GREEN COBRA
Spectacled cobras do not relish the icy inclines of the Amarnath Yatra though the serpent is closely associated with Lord Shiva. Being cold-blooded, no cobra has been known to have volunteered as a yatra pilgrim! Nature has a substitute though: the Jacquemont's Cobra lily found growing in stony areas on the yatra route. This lily is so titled because of its hooded serpent look and is named after French botanist/geologist Victor Jacquemont, who explored India and even met Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
This lily was photographed by a mechanical engineer from Mumbai, Narendra Joshi, who undertook the yatra in August 2013 to fulfill his passion for wild flower photography. Joshi found the lily on the Chandanwari-Pissu Top route at 10,000 feet and this was among a 100 different plants he clicked on the yatra. Though the lily's flowers were yet to bloom, these are known to emit a strong odour to attract pollinating insects. The lily's cobra appearance is attributed by botanists to an "erect central spadix rising from a spathe".
A RAJA'S BEACH
The 'Raja of Kaimbwala' is a title bestowed on an aging male buffalo put to pasture in the Sukhna lake jungle. Venerated by Kaimbwala villagers as the 'vahaan' of Yamraj, the Lord of Death, the buffalo is offered 'jaggery', gram and green fodder by visiting villagers to keep dear Yamraj in good humour! But Raja is an amiable gent, not prone to charging at humans. Raja also patiently lends his back, while wallowing in a jungle pond, to flap-shelled turtles. These turtles, whose status under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, is at par with tigers as a schedule 1 species, bask with legs spread wide to keep body temperature in tune with outside temperature and are termed 'ectothermic' or what is commonly known as cold-blooded.
'Endothermic' beings such as mammals and birds internally regulate temperature, irrespective of the environment. Five turtles regularly bask on Raja along with a cattle egret, which prefers to idle and preen feathers. Turtles like a hard surface in water to bask on, such as driftwood and rocks, and in certain rivers clamber aboard the backs of basking crocodiles!
THE IVORY BLUSHES
When Baba Kashmira Singh Bhuriwallah made a statement to 'Jagbaani' on July 31 that 1.1 quintal of ivory had been procured through SGPC chief AS Makkar for ornamenting the new doors of Golden Temple's Darshani Deori, little did he realise the disquiet it would trigger. The news-item found its way to the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in New Delhi. Ivory is banned for public use, unless permission is granted.
Since Amritsar has a history of ivory seizures, a WCCB team under deputy director RS Thakur took the help of the Amritsar police commissioner. The team checked the Baba's dera on Tarn Taran road but no ivory was found. Though the news item quoted the Baba as stating that the 'kar sewa' of the doors was underway at the 'dera', the Baba claimed before the WCCB that the doors were being made in the Golden Temple itself, and that only gold was used. Since the matter was sensitive, the WCCB left it that and warned the Baba against using ivory. The WCCB later issued an advisory to the Punjab chief wildlife warden asking him to keep a watch on the 'kar sewa'.