Wildbuzz | The viper and the squirrel

The viper was in full view of panicky residents and the rescue team, but it did not budge till it had fully taken in the squirrel
A viper ingests a squirrel at a Panjab University parking. (PHOTOS: DIKSHANT KANOJIA)
A viper ingests a squirrel at a Panjab University parking. (PHOTOS: DIKSHANT KANOJIA)
Published on Oct 10, 2021 03:44 AM IST
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By Vikram Jit Singh

The lure of hard-earned food is such that serpents are loath to discard prey even if humans are present as an unwelcome audience. A series of definitive photos in dazzling, rich colours captured a Russell’s viper ingesting a squirrel in broad daylight in the parking of the Teachers’ Flats at Panjab University.

The viper was in full view of panicky residents and the rescue team, but it did not budge till it had fully taken in the squirrel. Neither did the rescue team indulge in the sentimental stupidity of attempting to “rescue” the squirrel from the viper!

The photographs were clicked by Dikshant Kanojia, a budding naturalist and wildlife rescue personnel. Kanojia hails from a humble background, but works part time to fund his passion, while pursuing an undergraduate degree in the arts.

Vipers resort to varied hunting techniques. They can ambush and bite its prey and wait for it to perish before ingesting it. Or, a viper may grab prey without biting it, and then ingest it head-first to reduce flailing resistance. It could bite the prey while swallowing it as venom aids digestion.

When it comes to a squirrel, a viper may quickly swallow it as venom takes time to kill. The viper senses that a bitten squirrel may yet have time to scurry up a tree and find its last refuge in a hole out of the viper’s reach.

The eagle’s talons bloodily rake the monitor lizard. (PHOTO: RAJKUMAR DONGARE)
The eagle’s talons bloodily rake the monitor lizard. (PHOTO: RAJKUMAR DONGARE)

Flower gloom, blood bloom

The role that chance or luck play in human-wildlife interaction was underscored in an emphatic manner, laced with a touch of merciless irony. A luckless wildlife photographer could spend years hard tracking mighty eagles and yet not frame a noteworthy predation moment that could set a new benchmark for action photography. On the other hand, a disappointed photographer out to capture something else could be bestowed a spectacle so unsurpassable that it could regale viewers for a century.

Rajkumar Dongare was scouting the outskirts of Mayureshwar wildlife sanctuary, Maharashtra, to photograph the Caralluma fimbriata flower, an iconic plant whose extract is eaten by tribal hunters to suppress hunger and thirst before embarking on long shikars. Specialising in flower photography and not birds, Donagare was dejected as cattle had grazed over the flowering grasslands. By chance, his companion, Amit Kuwal, noticed an agitated Bonelli’s eagle 15 feet away. For 45 minutes, they closely witnessed the eagle killing and eating a sturdy monitor lizard (Goh) in full view.

The eagle jumped repeatedly to gather momentum for impact. The eagle would land hard on the lizard and the talons would embed deep. The lizard’s left foreleg was mangled as the eagle lifted the heavy reptile. Suffering unimaginable pain, the lizard battled to get free of the golden rakes. Its blood fountained to smatter the grasses bereft of seasonal flowers. As life ebbed from the flailing lizard, the eagle calmed down. The flattened battlefield grasses cautiously curved erect, and they were finally ‘petalled’, with dainty crimson spots of blood.

vjswild1@gmail.com

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Saturday, October 23, 2021