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Dec 12, 2018-Wednesday
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Wildbuzz: Of the partridge general, and cult of coprophagy

Had the leopard an inkling of the retired officer’s prowess with a gun and how it shaped his career path since his cadet days, the big cat would have steered a course miles away from the washing machine!

columns Updated: Aug 12, 2018 12:41 IST
Wildbuzz,Lt Gen Baljit Singh Jaswal,Northern Army Commander
Male Black partridges fight over ‘land & lady’.(Just Hunters)

Most of us are acquainted with the persona of Lt Gen Baljit Singh Jaswal (retd), a dapper, whiskered defence expert prominent on prime time TV. He retired as the Northern Army Commander in 2010, his forthright stance on the Chinese threat so having irked Beijing that he was famously refused a visa, sparking off a diplomatic row. On retirement, he took up residence at Amravati Enclave, Pinjore, and promptly figured on the wilder side of news!

A leopard stole into his house and sought refuge behind a washing machine, the tail poking out catching the attention of his wife, Ritu Jaswal. The big cat turned into a media celebrity following a nervy rescue operation though the retired officer maintained the demeanour worthy of a cool cat! Had the leopard an inkling of the retired officer’s prowess with a gun and how it shaped his career path since his cadet days, the big cat would have steered a course miles away from the washing machine!

A brace of flying partridges shot expertly on the wing in 1970, and thereby getting the better of his senior instructor (SI) in marksmanship, had influenced Jaswal’s career path, then a cadet at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, and president of the IMA Shikar Club.

“We cadets were shooting partridge near Saharanpur along with Goverdhan Singh Jamwal (later major general), who was then an IMA senior instructor (SI). A partridge flew between Jamwal and myself and both of us fired with our shotguns. Both of us claimed the bird. Jamwal examined the dead partridge and found it had been hit on the left wing. This meant that my shot had bagged the bird as I was on the left flank. After an interval, a partridge again flew and both fired and a similar dispute arose, which was settled in my favour after Jamwal examined the second dead partridge. Jamwal, who was from the JAK Rifles, took a liking to me and asked if I would like a commission into his regiment. Though my father and brother were from the Armoured Corps, my career path took a different turn when I accepted his offer and opted for the Infantry. Jamwal got me inducted into 3 JAK Rifles, then deployed in Sikkim, a special protectorate of India. The rest is history and God’s grace!” Jaswal told this writer.


“Out it flung/Its yellow tongue/To taste the dung!” was the poetic spin imparted by wildlife photographer Deepa Mohan to jungle beauties gorging on beastly dung. Zoology even has a queer word for species eating dung or faeces: coprophagy. While butterflies, moths and other species benefit from coprophagy, in humans such proclivity is an augury of mental illness or extreme sexual deviancy.

Butterflies gorge on cattle dung. (Rick Toor)

Just after the rains ebb, a ramble along the ribbon-like, serpentine rivulets of the Shivaliks affords viewership of butterfly movies. Some kitty parties of diverse butterflies are mud/dung-puddling on rivulet banks swamped with fresh mineral-rich silt while other “flying flowers” flutter like nervous eyelashes on bushes peeping over the rivulets.

Puddling is the phenomenon of butterflies gathering on substrates like wet soil, dung and carrion (rotting serpents also!) to obtain nutrients such as mineral salts, sodium and ammonium ions, amino acids and simple carbohydrates, which may be absent in the plants they feed on. Even sweat on human skin may be attractive to butterflies and more unusual sources include blood and tears. Male butterflies appropriate chemicals from dung and pass them to females. This gift, amounting to more than half a puddler male’s total body sodium, is in large measure apportioned by the female to egg formation.

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 11:12 IST