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Wildbuzz: Partridge whistle necklace

The Pardhi tribe was notified as a Criminal Tribe in 1871 by the British and later, in 1952, denotified and named a ‘nomadic tribe.’

punjab Updated: Jul 29, 2018 13:22 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
wildbuzz,Partridge,Grey partridge
A Partridge whistle choker necklace sits pretty on a model’s neck.(Image courtesy: LAST WILDERNESS FOUNDATION)

The Grey partridge (francolin) was the quintessential game bird inhabiting vast swathes of India’s countryside. While well-heeled sportsmen would have the bird flushed and shot on fast wing, the Pardhi tribe settled for the “Teetar whistle”. Carved from the bark of the Khair/Tendu tree, the whistle mimicked the partridge’s shrill call. It was played adeptly to entice a partridge to rush into a well-laid ground trap.

The Pardhis were known for their skill at handling animals and jungle knowledge. Over the years, as hunting became illegal, the tribe was left with no choice but to utilise their skills for poaching. Thus, the Pardhi tribe was notified as a Criminal Tribe in 1871 by the British and later, in 1952, denotified and named a ‘nomadic tribe.’ However, their social image has not changed much and they face a stigmatised existence.

“Though some Pardhis resorted to alternative livelihoods like selling herbs/medicinal plants, most continued to poach. Hence, the Last Wilderness Foundation (LWF) started working with Pardhis to explore possibilities of alternate livelihoods using their traditional knowledge for positive ends. The ‘Teetar whistle’ is an outcome of one such skill and is marketed by LWF for ₹300 each as a wildlife collectible. The effort is to reduce human-wildlife conflict and turn hunters into conservationists,” Vidya Venkatesh of LWF told this writer.

The LWF strung together the whistles and the result was a stunning, intriguing piece of tribal jewellery: the partridge whistle choker necklace! Besides a range of other tribal jewellery and artefacts marketed by LWF, a partridge whistle can also be fashioned as a pendant. A happy confluence of conservation and womanly vanity!

Rock python run over by tractor in a Siswan litchee orchard. ( Satnam Singh )

Loiterer in the litchees

The fertile monsoons, impartial to man and nature, had blessed the rows between litchee trees at a Siswan orchard with a spangled mass of weeds and wild grasses. A sturdy Rock python had wandered in from the nearby nallah to set up ambush for birds, small beasts and foraging ‘desi murgis’. The fact that the python had reached 10 feet was testimony to its evolutionary skills of survival in a habitat fragmented by farms, orchards and fencing.

On a sultry afternoon last week, the python lay on the fringes of a litchee tree’s draping branches with wild grass shrouding its coils. The unaware orchardist drove his tractor right over the python while clearing the undergrowth and the flicker of another noble specimen of the wilderness was extinguished forever.

Cases of pythons killed as farmers/orchardists clear out “wastelands of grass and scrub” are not infrequent. On another farm in the Shivalik foothills near Roopnagar, pythons entwined in the throes of mating passion were similarly run over. Creatures crushed range from such mighty serpents to small snakes to micro-organisms while pesticide/insecticide sprays ensure that insects are noticeably few in favourable humidity — the buzz hushed in a monsoon strangely silent.

So, the next time you pop a juicy, sugary, farm-fresh fruit into your mouth, or fling biscuits/breads at stray dogs sourced from invasive seas of wheat, do reflect that these foods come from an agriculture that kills by slipping on a green mask.

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

First Published: Jul 28, 2018 22:39 IST