Wild buzz: Love is in the air

  • Vikram Jit Singh, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 03, 2016 10:20 IST
(Left) Indian bullfrogs mating; (right) female jumps after a pup disrupts mating. (Shridhar Gavane)

Every monsoon, for the last six years, a naturalist awaits those days when he can observe and photograph mating Indian bullfrogs. This year, Shridhar Gavane was lucky as a pair fled to his compound from the pond outside as they were harassed by a rival male. That relocation granted Shridhar evocative photographs, including a freakish one of ‘coitus interrupted’ for the accepting female and the grinding male. Love had to take to the air as the bigger female jumped and fled with the male clinging on top after a stray dog puppy disrupted their monsoon ardour like a nosy ‘thanedar’ of the moral police!

Based in Palghar, Maharashtra, Gavane is an artist who practises in the mediums of calligraphy, abstract and print. He neither thinks frogs emit guttural croaks or are slimy, creepy creatures who spray venomous pee at humans at slightest offence. His core philosophy is that nature is always right. ‘’In the name of development and pursuit of temporary pleasures, humans destroy nature. They cannot realise the unconditional love and service that nature offers. That said, I do not subscribe to the hyper beliefs and practices of some animal lovers, who are actually human haters in disguise,’’ says Gavane.

The mottled, jungle warfare fatigues that male bullfrogs sport through much of the year turn rich gold in mating season. Their vocal sacs acquire a blue hue as they vent their arias of ardour. Gavane observes that such is the coordination when the couple is mating that the male and female’s eyes focus in different directions to detect threats. For Gavane, mating couples are ‘meghdoots’ as their brief appearance is a certain augury of rains.

“They mate for about 24 hours. They disappear after that for a year. I would love to discuss frogs with my late grandfather. My father and daughter share my passion and respect for frogs but the rest of my family finds it difficult to empathise,’’ Gavane told this writer.

Such darlings!

On Brig Sukhdev Singh's monstera plant: (from left) the siblings cling to each other; only one remains; and goes to sleep as a ball of feathers, which mimics a tuber-like structure. (MARYAM KHATOON / VIKRAM JIT SINGH)

Imagine two shivering, clinging waifs sheltering in a deep doorway of a mansion as a snow storm rages outside. Let us now visit a real-life parallel in a hot, humid city. Two Tailor bird siblings adopted as their ‘raen basera’ (night shelter) a monstera plant abutting the main door in a verandah of a Sector 33 kothi in Chandigarh. In recent weeks, guests entering the kothi of Brig Sukhdev Singh (retd) adored the spectacle of these ‘’utterly-butterly’’ juvenile birds.

The birds were well within the reach of children, and guests could easily touch them. Even though guests made a fuss outside over the trusting siblings before proceeding inside to make merry, the human hullabaloo never once deflected the birds from their night perch.

But death lurks in every pretty garden. Like thorns that bloody hands and catch at the sleeves of those who reach for the roses. One evening, the householders noticed with a sinking heart that only one bird had returned to the monstera.

A resident feral cat — that unnatural scourge of wild birds — seemed to have gobbled the other sibling during daytime. The Brigadier then stapled two giant leaves of the monstera to contrive a roof and three sidewalls for the surviving sibling’s night shelter, which it has happily accepted.

Meanwhile, life springs eternal: in the tree that looms over the kothi’s driveway, two more fledg-lings are preparing to parachute from their tailor-made nest into an uncertain world.

Mushrooming revenues

The uprooted specimen of a Reishi mushroom in the Patiala ki rao forest. Seen as it grows (left); and (right) the mushroom upside down showing the stalk. (Vikram Jit Singh )

This was one hell of a striking mushroom — by size, colour and structure. I found it while wandering through the damp Patiala ki rao Reserve forest, which is situated to the north of Panjab University and encircles the Dhanas lake. Deeply intrigued, I sought the consultation of an eminent group of botanists, efloraofindia, and was told by Dr Anil K. Thakur that the specimen I had found was the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum). According to the Directorate of Mushroom Research, Solan, the Reishi is pharmacologically and commercially the most important medicinal mushroom in the world with current global trade of $2.5 billion. Reshi imports to India cross ` 100 crore annually.

“The Reishi is reported to possess a plethora of significant medicinal values --- anti-cancer, anti-HIV, anti-heart attack (cholesterol lowering as well as anti-angiogenic), hepato/nephro-protective, hypoglycemic (anti-diabetes), antioxidants etc,’’ states the Directorate’s published literature. The Directorate has developed cultivation technology of the Reishi, and claims this can be adapted by farmers and entrepreneurs to harvest rich dividends.vjswild1@gmail.com

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