Wild buzz: Blooms on high borders

  • Vikram Jit Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 10, 2016 11:10 IST


Command and control of restricted, high-altitude areas has afforded the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) a unique photo-op: to capture for digitalised posterity alpine flora and fauna. The ITBP, set up in October 1962, is currently deployed in Kashmir, Afghanisthan and the Naxal zones apart from its primary charter, which is to guard the Indo-China frontier. The ITBP introduced a special course in photography five years back for its personnel and this has facilitated a steady stream of images from border outposts to enrich its active and informative social media handles, Twitter and Facebook.

(From left): Blue flowers (Primula species) and yellow flowers (Sedum species) on route to Mount Mukut, Uttarakhand; a wallet recovered from an abandoned body of a porter on Mount Mukut route; Greater Blue sheep at 16,000 feet, Demchok, Ladakh. (Constable Biman Biswas/ITBP )

On July 6, the ITBP’s Twitter handle posted a haunting image of a crescent-shaped moon looming over dark, forbidding peaks. The photo was clicked at an altitude of 6,000 metres. ‘’The ITBP is duty-bound to safeguard the environment. Due to this protection, wild animals in restricted zones are easily seen and photographed and some are so tame that they have lost their fear of our personnel. Recently, on an expedition to Mount Mukut (7,135m) in Uttarakhand, our mountaineers came across vivid alpine blooms as also the disturbing sight of a body of a porter at 5,300m, which had been abandoned by a civil expedition of 2014. Though it is very difficult to lug a body down from those heights, the ITBP team decided to evacuate the body as it felt that the pristine environment of the high mountains would be preserved better and the dead porter’s relatives got a chance to conduct his last rites,’’ the ITBP’s Head of Public Relations Cell, Vivek K Pandey, told this writer.


In the late 1980s, an episode sent a chill down the spines of Delhi’s well-heeled shikaris and poachers. A national skeet shooter from Haryana, who was also a Union Minister, was gifted pork by his cunning rural supporters knowing his fondness for shikar meat. They passed it off as wild boar meat but it was actually a cut from a domestic pig purchased from the colony market. That meat had parasites and the VIP was afflicted with tape worms in the brain. Expensive surgery and prolonged treatment, however, saved his life. Since villagers intrude into peripheral jungles to defecate and wild boars regularly forage at human waste dumps around villages in Punjab, some of our region’s poachers and permit shikaris, too, refrain from eating boar meat fearing worm infestation.

(Photo: Mohammed Shujath)

But back to boars, and fact is that these sturdy, pugnacious, hoary creatures eat just about anything. Mohammed Shujath captured a defining moment of natural history at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, when a female boar overcame a determined defense from a Cheetal doe and spirited off her fawn. The sow had hungry piglets to feed. That rare photograph led to many eyebrows being raised among the legion of ‘’wildlife lovers’’, including those ignoramuses who claimed that boars do not kill other species.

It was left to the knowledgeable Pallavi Sarkar to lend insight into the jungle’s brutal realities: ‘’Boars are opportunist carnivores. They mostly eat plant matter, including crops, fruits, nuts, roots and green plants. They have also been known to consume bird eggs, dead animals (and offal), rodents, insects, worms (and snakes). Boars have reportedly preyed on small calves, lambs and other livestock. Boars change their diet depending on what is available, which varies with season, weather conditions and location.’’


Murali Ramalingam is an aero-engine technician deploying his skills on MI-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force. This IAF technocrat and Pune native is enjoying his second posting in the Chandigarh area. Unlike some denizens of the tricity, he does not take for granted the beauty and serenity afforded by the Sukhna Lake and values each outing to the regulator-end where he takes a ramble down the bird walk. The lake’s eco-system, which sports migrant birds and butterflies, grants him the opportunity for wildlife photography through the lens of an advanced DSLR camera. His passion for clicking these ethereal spirits of the air was kindled two years back after a fellow officer’s similar pursuits caught his eye. But the passion for nature has deeper roots in his being. For Ramalingam, it is nature’s colours that stir his soul to the depths.

An Ashy prinia perched on Zinnia blooms at the Garden of Silence, Sukhna lake. (Photo: Murali Ramalingam)

Nature is the supreme painter deploying myriads of colours in original and adaptive patterns and mosaics. What is a bird... but a creation sculpted in feather and bone, a palette of non-pirated hues, a frozen frame, a painting liberated by flight. ‘’Just look at the different colours in a bird’s feathers. We can never hope to match the variety and shades of colour offered by nature’s palette,’’ Ramalingam told this writer, adding that environmental awareness and kindness for creatures is the need of the hour when humanity preens itself with the plumes of destructive lifestyles.

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