MASK OF PIETY
This is not the first time that Baba Madho Singh, who runs Gurdwara Nanaksar Ishardam within the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, has courted controversy over wildlife-related matters. On a recent visit to the sanctuary to show migratory birds to schoolkids, former Punjab chief wildlife warden Gurmit Singh, and former additional director, National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, BS Gurm, of the Nature Conservation Society noticed something amiss in the Baba’s aviary. Vikram Jit Singh writes
MASK OF PIETY
This is not the first time that Baba Madho Singh, who runs Gurdwara Nanaksar Ishardam within the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, has courted controversy over wildlife-related matters. On a recent visit to the sanctuary to show migratory birds to schoolkids, former Punjab chief wildlife warden Gurmit Singh, and former additional director, National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, BS Gurm, of the Nature Conservation Society noticed something amiss in the Baba’s aviary.
The cage situated within the gurdwara premises housed a pair of Alexandrine parakeets, which are wild Indian birds covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and whose private possession is banned and punishable.
The cage was mainly housing mutants of the exotic African species, Masked Lovebirds, whose sale and private possession is legal in India. When this writer asked the Baba, he said, "The parakeets had been given to someone to release in the jungle’’.
The Baba did not reveal from where he had procured these parakeets. The illegal possession of parakeets by the Baba had not been taken notice of by the forests and wildlife department.Pic on Right: Red arrows point to parakeets. Gurmit Singh
Divisional forest officer (DFO), wildlife, at Harike, Pritima Shrivastava promised to ‘look into the matter’, and photographs of the caged parakeets have been emailed to her on February 17. However, there has been no response from the department yet.
SURRENDER TO SCHOOLSFive of Chandigarh’s educational institutes have complied with the orders of chief wildlife warden Santosh Kumar to ‘surrender’ wildlife specimens maintained in their laboratories. These are: Carmel Convent, St John’s High School, MCM DAV College for Women, Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School and Ishwar Singh Dev Samaj Senior Secondary School.
Some specimens, such as certain fish species, have been kept out of the purview of the ‘surrender’ as these are not covered by the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Kumar says that Sacred Heart was initially not cooperative with the wildlife department in the surrender.
What the department has done is that the specimens have been made government property, certificates granted to the schools, and specimens sent back to the possession of the schools to be produced whenever required.
The CBSE directive, as also the initial orders of the UT, seek a surrender to the department. Kumar says that he has written to the ministry of environment and forests seeking a solution for the possession of specimens, and pending that these will remain with the schools. Pic on Right: Preserved cobra hatchlings seized from Agra. SP Yadav
The department is also sending reminders for compliance through the education department to the following schools, which have been tardy in the submission of their specimens: Government Senior Secondary Schools (Mauli Jagran, Sectors 47D, 19C) and Government High Schools (Sectors 46C, 7C).
The issue is significant in light of the raids last year by animal rights NGOs and the police on schools, as well as the arrest on January 31 of Karandeep Brar, director, St. Soldier International Convent School in Phase 7, SAS Nagar, on the grounds of keeping 15 jars of preserved ‘illegal’ wildlife specimens. Illegal specimens are mostly sourced from Agra.
THIS SIDE OF PARADISENature recognises no visual distinctions of beauty and the beast. Birds gobble insects. Spiders may eat beautiful birds. It is all about killing, surviving, mating and ensuring the reproductive success of the species. There is a particular spider, the Giant wood spider or Golden silk orb weaver spider (Nephila pilipes jalorensis), whose female species can grow to a gigantic size.
The females, like in the case of raptors, are larger than males in this spider species. The web of this spider is spectacular, reckoned by some experts to be even stronger than Kevlar. The web is stretched and sticky and can trap birds, such as the Asian paradise flycatcher (see photo) or a Grasshopper warbler.
This spider’s standard diet, though, is grasshoppers, mantises and butterflies. Larger birds trapped in this spider’s web can escape after thrashing about, but not before damaging their own wings, as also the web they were caught in. Smaller birds caught in the web may die and be partially eaten by this spider. (Photo Courtesy: Vikrant Vilas Kopale)
However, other experts contend that the spider may not relish birds being caught in its web as it causes damage. So, this spider may leave insect wings hanging on its web, like scarecrows or a skull and crossbones warning sign, to deter birds that venture close.