Panthera Leo Perfidy

The 34-second video of two Asiatic lionesses (Panthera leo persica) that sent tremors through Panchkula on December 9 after going viral on WhatsApp was not fake but one misrepresented by posting it on social media as night footage shot at Panchkula.Writes Vikram Jit Singh

chandigarh Updated: Dec 13, 2014 23:45 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times

The 34-second video of two Asiatic lionesses (Panthera leo persica) that sent tremors through Panchkula on December 9 after going viral on WhatsApp was not fake but one misrepresented by posting it on social media as night footage shot at Panchkula.

A mischievous person had lifted the video from YouTube. The video is a real one and was originally posted on December 2 by ‘Divya Bhaskar’ under the title, ‘Lion on road at Bhavnath mandir, Junagadh’. This video was then passed on Panchkula-based WhatsApp groups with the declaration that it had been shot in Sector 21.

Evidently, the mischief mongerer’s timing took advantage of the leopard attack near Raipurrani on December 2 injuring four Bhadauna villagers, and the ‘popular and media perception’ prevailing since that the Haryana wildlife department had miserably failed to trap the offending leopard.

In that clouded context, the lioness’s video spurred alarmed residents to circulate warnings not to venture out of their homes and stop kids from going to school. The location of the video changed with the rising tide of panic. Residents started to claim the video was from Sectors 2, 4, 5 and 6, Panchkula.

Photo Caption :A grab from the lioness' video on YouTube.

The department was again pressed into action to locate the lionesses and its personnel searched far and wide. But fact is that lions are not found here and their natural habitat is Gujarat. The remote possibility was that the lionesses had escaped from Chhatbir zoo or from the illegal captivity of a private person. Lions have been removed from circuses and sent to rescue centres long back so there is little chance of this as the source of the wandering lionesses.

“The zoo’s chief veterinarian Dr MP Singh informed me that the only lioness with the zoo was safe and sound and right in front of him when I rang him up to cross-check! We surveyed the entire area of Sector 20/21. The kind of interlock-tiled road divider and the arrow markings on the road divider were not to be found in Panchkula.

The lack of bougainvillea bushes on the divider (so characteristic of Panchkula’s roads) was another indication. We could not find the jungle, dug-up area parallel to the road, and the red and blue ‘rehri’ shown in the video. This established the video as a mischievous act aimed at terrorising people and harassing department personnel,’’ Panchkula Wildlife Inspector Jaibir Singh told this writer.

Sukhna mein dukh

The Sukhna lake’s waters have been merrily lapping at the higher steps along the walkway for the last two years. This abundance may be eye-candy for tourists, walkers and certain UT departments. But lurking in the murky, silt-laden depths is some bad news for creatures whose presence is registered by way of rising air bubbles, ripples or an occasional, spectacular, silvery splash by bigger specimens. Or, for that matter, the rotting remains of fish mass mortality gobbled greedily by birds on the lake’s banks.

The latest research undertaken on the lake’s fish diversity has reported a shortfall of 13 species as compared to 32 species recorded in 2005-2006. Researcher Veerpal Kaur of the Panjab University’s Department of Zoology (DoZ) has been capturing fish under permission since June 2012 as part of her Ph.D. thesis. Specimens have also been collected from anglers. The final phase of the netting was carried out between December 8-12 using the services of hired fisherman, Shatrughan, from Muzzafarpur, Bihar.

In June 2012, the use of large gillnets had been allowed by the UT Fisheries department for research and boats were used to catch species. In the December 2014 research netting, only castnets were allowed along the banks by fickle-minded Fisheries officials on the flimsy pretext that conspicious use of large nets would encourage anglers and poachers to also resort to the same! However, castnets are limited by their reach, size and technique, and get damaged due to litter and ‘pooja’ debris prevalent in the lake’s waters.

The PU’s project, ‘Control of aquatic weeds, physico-chemical parameters and biodiversity of Sukhna Lake’, was sanctioned by the Department of Environment, Chandigarh, to Prof. MS Johal and Dr. YK Rawal from the DoZ for two years (2012-’14) with an approved cost of Rs. 9.9 lakh. “The project was aimed at suggesting measures to save the lake. The primary findings of the project indicate that number of fish species has declined to just 19.

The drying up of the lake (in 2012) played havoc with overall fish diversity, which has been further complicated by growth of aquatic weeds. The growing load of silt added to the problem. The only way to save the lake is to control silt and periodically remove weeds,’’ said Dr. Rawal.

He says the significant species that have gone missing are of ‘Danio’; of cat fishes like Aorichthys seenghala, Heteropneustes fossilis, Wallago attu; and species of ‘Channa’.

First Published: Dec 13, 2014 22:49 IST