Wild buzz: Encore for an owl

  • Vikram Jit Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Aug 21, 2016 09:56 IST
Class-12 student Karan Kumar (right) holds the rescued owl with Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya principal, Surya Prakash. (Photo: Baljinder Singh )

The pursuit of music can lend a certain refinement to human character. A rescue of a magnificent Eagle owl by a passionate player of drums at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Pojewal (Nawanshahar), echoes this assumption. Last week, Karan Kumar, a student of Class 12, woke up at dawn to exercise and found an owl strung in the barbed wire guarding the compound wall of the girl’s hostel. Stray dogs were lunging at the stricken owl and crows pecked it. The owl was likely to have got entangled while chasing prey. Since the owl was high up, Kumar could not easily get to the bird. But neither could he get himself to turn his back on a creature in distress. Kumar fetched a pair of pliers from the local electrician and cut the wire on both sides of the wing.

The owl was temporarily housed in an unused dormitory till wildlife-rescue expert Nikhil Sanger arrived after being summoned by music teacher, Baljinder Singh. Sanger nursed it to health and the crowning moment came when the fit-to-fly owl was released near the Vidyalaya to the cheers of staff and students.

Baljinder is a national award winning music teacher and Karan has been under his tutelage for the last six years. ‘’I found Karan to be a compassionate child, who would lend moral support to new students feeling lonely at the Vidyalaya. Karan is proficient in music of the rhythmic sections, especially drums, tabla and dhol. Music teaches a student compassion, spirituality, responsibility and discipline. Students of music tend to harbour a less aggressive, more sober outlook than sports kids. When Karan saw the owl in distress, his thought process was such that he could not turn a blind eye to suffering. Other kids may have pelted stones, jeered at the owl’s helplessness or just left it to fate,’’ Baljinder told this writer.


(Left) Punjab governor-designate VP Singh Badnore leans from a vehicle to click a tiger at Ranthambore in June 2016; (right) the tiger photographed by Badnore. (Photo: VP Singh Badnore)

Politicians with a commitment to wildlife conservation are a rare species. The appointment of Vijayendra Pal Singh Badnore as Punjab governor and UT administrator is good news as he has steered the fate of many an empowered committee and statutory body on conservation at the level of the Rajasthan and Central governments. His daughter, Divija Singh, is a proud inheritor of this legacy. ‘’What I appreciate most about my father is that when he was a Lok Sabha MP from Bhilwara, he had to undertake extensive tours of the constituency, but he made sure he found time from his punishing schedule for wildlife. My brother, Avijit, and myself have inherited this passion and being Rajputs, I guess we are naturally closer to nature! I remember my father would celebrate New Year with a safari commencing at 5 am in the icy environs of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. That was childhood for us. We accompany him on his wildlife tours to Ranthambore, Sariska and Bharatpur and share his passion for photography,’’ Singh told this writer.

Though Badnore will hold a constitutional post in Punjab, his experience and passion can nudge the government into pro-active wildlife governance. On her part, Singh looks forward to visiting the Harike wildlife sanctuary, a haven for migratory birds described by the late Dr Salim Ali as ‘’Punjab’s Bharatpur’’.

Badnore was chairperson of the special task force to rehabilitate tigers in Sariska, member of the Rajasthan Wildlife Board for 20 years, and a former member of Project Tiger’s steering committee. He is a member of the Delhi Gymkhana and Delhi Golf Club.


Mouse deer at Chhatbir zoo. (Photo: Vikram Jit Singh)

In the coming days, visitors to Chhatbir zoo will finally get to view India’s smallest deer species, the Mouse deer or the Indian chevrotain. Four deer (one died after suffering injury enroute to Chhatbir) were brought from the Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad, in March, and will be shifted in the coming days from their off-display quarters to a public view enclosure. The zoo changed its plans to house them in a large, open-top enclosure after sound advice from zoo keeper, Maghi Ram, who warned that these mini-deer would be vulnerable to jungle cats, eagle owls and hawks. The deer will shift to an adapted big bird enclosure, sealed from top and barricaded with special mesh to stop snakes and pythons. The average size of this species: 2-4 kg, height at shoulder 25-30 cm.

This deer’s looks and behavioral traits lend to it an esoteric blend of a deer, hare and a rodent. It is the only species among ruminants to possess a three and not four-chambered stomach. At the zoo, the deer are fortunate to have Ram looking after them. He hails from a shepherd family and has a special way with animals and their ‘bachhaas’. So charming are these delicate creatures that Ram declares he has ‘’simply fallen in love with them’’. In turn, the deer repose their confidence in Ram by sneaking up to him and sniffing him up and down!

Ram spent days figuring out what they liked to eat. Through trial and error, he discovered that the maroon figs of the Gullar (Ficus racemosa) were liked as much by the deer as humans relish gulab jamuns! ‘’Their other favourite is Subabul flowers, while bananas do not survive their eating onslaught, which is usually at night. But they don’t like cucumbers at all,’’ quips Ram, who has served animals at the zoo for 35 years.


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