The drying Sukhna lake may have caused alarm among administrative and judicial figures along with daily walkers but certainly, wetland avians are loving the “ugly, muddy patches”, going by the increasing spread of species. The mudflats and receding water lines are being occupied by a host of waders and shorebirds, revelling in exposed aquatic foods. While clicking these waders last week, a new species record for the Chandigarh region was added in the guise of a Hume’s short-toed lark (a non-wader). This diminutive, reticent avian was at the regulator-end’s complex of shallow water and mudflats, and caught the eye of bird photographer Munish Jauhar. Since the photograph was not crystal clear, Jauhar sought the advice of renowned bird field guides author Tim Inskipp. There are, at least, three larks that look similar: Greater short-toed lark, Sykes’s short-toed lark and Hume’s short-toed lark.
Commenting on Jauhar’s photograph of the Sukhna specimen, Inskipp confirmed it to be of Hume’s with the following reasoning: “Yes (Hume’s), based on the dark patch on the lores, the uniform ear-coverts, weakly-streaked crown and dark ridge on bill.” The Hume’s lark is a migratory bird, which stopped at Sukhna while on passage to high-altitude semi-desert areas, such as the Tibetan plateau, where it breeds in summer. The new record of the Hume’s boosts the number of species observed in the inter-state capital region (50km radius from Chandigarh) to 416, give or take a few.
THE GLOBE IS BITTEN
The other day while playing at the Chandigarh Golf Club, former club president BS Gill ‘Gilli’ observed a menace to wildlife that has established a resonance across the globe. One of the many stray dogs that scamper around the greens/fairways and lounge in sand bunkers by digging holes had darted into the bushes flanking the 14th hole, jumped and grabbed in mid-air, a foraging peahen, as she struggled to take flight.
A recent study by a team of leading international researchers, including Dr Abi T Vanak from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore; Tim Doherty; Chris Dickman; Alistair Glen; Thomas Newsome; Dale Nimmo; Euan Ritchie and Aaron Wirsing, reveals that dogs have contributed to 11 vertebrate extinctions and are a known or potential threat to at least 188 threatened species worldwide, including 96 mammal, 78 bird, 22 reptile and three amphibian species. This includes 30 critically-endangered species, two of which are labelled as “possibly extinct”. These numbers place dogs as the world’s third-most damaging and invasive of mammalian predators, behind rodents and cats. There are now an estimated one billion domestic dogs (canis familiaris) across their near-global distribution, including pet dogs. The menace of dogs is an accompaniment to the trampling advance of the human boot print on nature.
According to an ATREE statement, regions with the most species impacted are: South-East Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Micro/Mela/Polynesia and Australia. Besides simply killing animals, dogs harm wildlife by spreading disease, inter-breeding with other canids, competing for resources such as food or shelter, and causing disturbances by chasing or harassment.
THE LAW’S MAJESTY
The sensational arrest of JCT Ltd chairman Samir Thapar, Cargo Motors chairman Jayant Nanda and 14 other men, by the Uttarakhand police from Kolhu Chuar forest rest house (Lansdowne) on December 31, 2016, and their subsequent stint in jail for 18 days, has now winded to trial proceedings. The arrests were made on charges of violating forest laws, possession of arms and liquor, lighting fires and tenting. The arrested included two from the tricity, Rohit Singh Daggar (Panchkula) and Ronnie Batth (Chandigarh), along with former national clay pigeon shooters, Randeep and Saravdeep Mann from Karnal, Mohinder Singh from Hoshiarpur and Rajeev Jain from Amritsar. The Mann brothers are sons of former Indri MLA Surjeet Singh Mann and grandsons of former MLA Janki Mann.
The chargesheets against the accused were presented by the Kotdwar police in the court of Bhavdeep Ravtey, additional chief judicial magistrate, Kotdwar. However, no charges have been pressed on account of meats found from the group that was sent for analysis to the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. “The meat samples were not found to be of any scheduled animal under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,” an investigating officer in the case told this writer.
The court has issued summons for appearance to a section of the accused for May 15, 2017. While Daggar and another accused have been charged under Section 26 (b,g) of the Forest (Conservation) Act, Sarvdeep Mann has been charged under Section 30 of the Arms Act as he was found in possession of an undeclared .300 bore telescoped German rifle with 23 cartridges. Mohinder Singh, in whose name three rest suites were booked, has been charged under Section 60 of the Excise (Spirits) Act as 171 bottles of liquor were seized. Aarif Husain Chechi of Delhi has been charged under Section 25 of the Arms Act as 15 unlicenced cartridges of the .375 bore rifle were seized from him.
The rest house had been booked for the annual winter jamboree of Thapar groupies and is situated in the reserve forests fringing Corbett National Park.