Wildbuzz: Cheetah for change
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Wildbuzz: Cheetah for change

punjab Updated: Dec 03, 2017 15:04 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
Wildbuzz,Cheetah,Chhatbir Zoo

Cheetah races with car and (right) adopts a graceful pose on the winning car with driver alongside.(PHOTO: FORMULA E)

Just last week, the globe learnt that the fastest land animal, Cheetah, put up a stiff fight before losing out in a drag race to a fully-electric racing car. The good news for Cheetah fans is that the big cat, built for speed not strength, will still outrun Usain Bolt if it boils down to a “man-to-man” sprint. Ahead of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, commencing on Monday, with the banner theme of pollution, an esoteric race was staged at Western Cape in South Africa, pitting a cheetah against Montreal E-Prix race winner, Jean-Eric Vergne. The race, whose film video was released on November 28 and pitched as a “catalyst for change”, drew millions of views around the globe.

Samuel Wakefield, spokesperson for Formula E, the race’s organisers, told this writer that the objective was “to accelerate uptake of electric vehicles on a global scale and make society cleaner for future generations...There are 7,000 cheetahs remaining. The species is wide-ranging, sparsely distributed and needs large landscapes, making the animal particularly vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation, threats exacerbated by changing climate.” Wakefield added, “The (race) film was overseen by conservation experts and animal welfare organisations, and is released in partnership with Animal Issues Matter, Cheetah Outreach and Endangered Wildlife Trust.”

Maj Gen Jaswant Singh (retd) fishing in Munawar Tawi river before the 1971 War. (PHOTO: SANDHU FAMILY ARCHIVES)


As dusk fell upon December 3, 1971, Pakistan launched a blitzkrieg on Chhamb in the Jammu sector, but were repelled from crossing the Munawar Tawi river by the doughty 10 Infantry Division under command of then General Officer Commanding (GOC), Maj Gen Jaswant Singh. An unmentioned aside to Maj Gen Singh’s proclivity for rugged field inspections and recces in remote areas of his command during the run-up to the War was partridge shooting and angling.

He would carry his shotgun and fishing gear and take time off to bag a brace of birds and fish for the evening pot and camp fire. A champion at competition pistol and rifle shooting at the Western Command level, he died in harness as Vice-Chief of Army Staff in 1980. Such “field loving” traits were frequently encountered in officers of yore and stood the institutions they served in good stead as they afforded a connect with grassroots and common folk. Traits sadly ebbing due to advent of chopper-borne or pot-bellied GOCs and IAS officers sticking like limpets to district HQs, the secretariat and golf clubs!

The GOC’s widow, Ajit Jaswant Singh, settled in Chandigarh, recalls him angling at Madhopur headworks, Lidder river in Pahalgam and wherever field deployments afforded silvery fins swirling in sparking waters of a pollution-free era. His then ADC and Panchkula resident, Colonel Mahesh Chadha (retd), too, has memories to share: “Maj Gen Singh would have partridges flushed from Chhamb sarkanda and take flying shots as he never killed sitting birds. He told me that when a partridge is shot, the mate may come back like a human to ask the fallen beloved, ‘Hey, what’s happened to you?’ A patient wait for four minutes, after the first partridge was downed on one occasion, did result in the mate flying back to the bundle of blasted feathers. The GOC quickly dispatched the mate to join his beloved in eternity.’’

Indian Roofed turtles (right) enjoying a warm water bath at Chhatbir Zoo in Zirakpur. (PHOTOS: SHIVJOT SINGH BHULLAR)


They had been packed tightly in a suitcase for concealed transport and sale in the illegal pet market. But fortune turned the full wheel and 54 Indian Roofed turtles were rescued from poachers in Ludhiana and sent to Chhatbir zoo’s care on court orders. Initially, the turtles proved difficult to manage as they were small in size and vulnerable and did not take kindly to the standard offering of mashed veggies.

However, zoo official, Shivjot S Bhullar, nurtures a passion for rearing aquarium fish and he hit upon an innovative plan. He got an aquarium provider to devise an improvised one for turtles, which has water filtered, warmed and circulated. Room temperature is maintained at 28 C°. and humidity above 60%. Naturally, the rescued turtles are loving it at the zoo, and they take turns to have hot water baths gushing from aquarium pipes! The turtles are provided special feed, packaged in tiny sticks. Since turtle mouths do not emit saliva, feed is taken in water to ease swallowing.

Evolution has emblazoned colour codes and stripes on the turtles’ dainty bodies and curves with the finesse of a Pahari miniature painting. Thus, turtles are not only the scavengers cleaning our wetlands but also soulful jewels that adorn aqua nature.

(The author can be contacted at vjswild1@gmail.com)

First Published: Dec 03, 2017 14:50 IST