Put pithily, the powers of traditional snake charmers or ‘saperas’ to ferret out snakes from their hiding places using the mythical powers of the flute-like ‘been’ is inversely proportional to their ability to con educated humans. Last week, workers in Pramod K Sharma’s tractor parts factory in Panchkula’s Industrial Area, Phase 1, Plot 47, came upon a snake hiding among the machines. Panic ensued and workers stopped manufacture. Two saperas from Ropar were contacted over the cellphone to remove the meddlesome serpent. Nowadays, not only are saperas available 24x7 on cellphones but they also have made inroads into police control rooms (PCRs), which speedily refer snake-terrorised householders to these charlatans in flowing orange robes. The latest is saperas advertising on commercial websites and offering cheap removal, per snake Rs 700-800!
Anyway, the two saperas reached Sharma’s factory, took out their ‘been’ and amid much ‘oohs and aahs’ from the hypnotised humans, proceeded to enact a song and dance show. In the end, they ferreted out two, long, wriggling, non-venomous Rat snakes much to the ‘delighted horror’ of the workers. The saperas left with a reward of Rs 2,500. The workers heaved a sigh of relief and resumed work only to discover that a hissing serpent was still hiding in the machines. The ‘been’ had evidently failed to hypnotise the real target!
Fact is that the ‘saperas’ had brought two Rat snakes, concealed in their robes, and had pulled them out craftily at the right moment. The problem serpent had been left untouched in the machines. Wisdom dawned on a rattled Sharma and he summoned the tricity’s authentic snake-rescue personnel, Salim Khan, who searched deftly and pulled out the hiding serpent, a venomous Spectacled cobra.
RAINBOW ON WINGS
The invasive weed, lantana, has resulted in stifling native plants and has not suited all wildlife species. But certainly, the Red junglefowl (Jangli murgha) can be found in good numbers along the Shivalik foothills and lantana affords impenetrable cover and haven for it to breed. Driving along jungle roads during morning/evening or taking a ramble deep into the foothills invariably yields sightings of these shy birds. The breeding season is from March to May and upon the rains, one can see chicks scrambling along with the hens amid the leaf litter at Sukhna Lake Reserve Forest. The junglefowl is pursued as a gamebird by hunters and poachers, and adapts rather easily to scrub jungle. These birds were found in good number along the 4th,12th and 13th holes at the Chandigarh Golf Club. The colours of the male could be glimpsed in all their splendour as the bird regally strutted around the collars of the elevated 12th hole green. However, poaching by Bapu Dham colony residents has robbed the club and adjoining reserve forests of the junglefowl.
An exquisite capture of the male’s rainbow spread, which revealed a canvas of colours and feathers not normally visible, was by bird photographer, Ami Prabal. She is the daughter-in-law of Haryana governor and former Punjab governor Kaptan Singh Solanki. A Bhopal-based lawyer, Prabal visits Chandigarh and sallies from the Raj Bhawans to capture birdlife in the Morni jungles and Sukhna wildlife sanctuary. Her bird photographs are never dull portraits, and freeze some ‘action or foray’ of feathered life. A poetess, too, she adds to her digitalised delights by prefacing bird captures with a sensitive and imaginative word picture. For the junglefowl, Prabal wrote: ‘Jungle always steals my heart and when this shy beauty tried to capture me forever by showing its ultimate gorgeous show-off, OMG what was the thunderstorm of colours, I was totally lost therein...Time and again I fall in love...got mesmerised, totally lost in those beautiful wings’.
POACHING AT SUKHNA
A disturbing aspect of the adored and frequented Sukhna Lake nature trail is the sighting of sambars and wild boars, whose jaw/mouth has been blown off by improvised explosive devices coated in ‘atta’, maize, jaggery etc and planted by poachers in the fields of Saketri and Kaimbawala that fringe the reserve forest. The animals are hit when they leave the forest to feed at night on crops. The wounded animals retreat to the forest but die painfully as they cannot drink or eat. There are reports of poachers in jeeps hunting sambars at night in these fields with searchlights and shotguns/rifles. As the lake dries up, the big carps are getting isolated and are collecting in deep water pools at the regulator-end and rowing canal. Poachers target fish at night in the absence of patrolling.
When brought to the notice of the UT forests and wildlife department by this writer, an official promised to ‘step up night patrolling along village boundaries and regulator-end’.