Wildbuzz: Spooked by strangers
Toor’s photograph revealed it was a Common Palm civet, locally known as ‘Bijjoo’ or even ‘Kabr bijjoo’ on the misconception that it digs graves at night to munch on corpses! But the civet does not attack and bite humans in the habit of dogs.Updated: Jun 09, 2018 22:58 IST
Creatures that thrive on the dark side of the moon create undue fears in humans. They are less familiar, appear weird and emit banshee calls of tormented spirits. Aaron Jebin lives in Kharar and on Friday he sent me a frantic message: a new, owl-like pair of birds had settled in a mango tree in his backyard. Stemming from the media hype over Nipah virus and hysteria created against bats and associates, Jebin gave vent to his central apprehension: “Sir, we would be grateful if you can please tell us a little more about this beautiful bird. Only thing we are afraid of is that we are having pomegranates and bananas in a semi-ripe condition...do these birds eat those fruits...is there any chance of infection?”
I informed Jebin that these were Barn owls, a common species. Owls are carnivores and do not eat fruits. So, no worries about infections and viruses. Besides, not all flying creatures are carriers of viruses harmful to humans.
In a parallel incident, wildlife photographer Rick Toor chanced upon a ‘hazy, crazy’ creature nestling in a tree of the Shivalik foothills near Mirzapur dam. As darkness had descended upon the countryside, the villagers accompanying him beat a hasty retreat as they said it was a ‘Bijjoo’ and would attack. Toor, unfamiliar with the creature, thought it might be a leopard and flirted briefly with the idea of exercising discretion as the better part of valour.
Toor’s photograph revealed it was a Common Palm civet, locally known as ‘Bijjoo’ or even ‘Kabr bijjoo’ on the misconception that it digs graves at night to munch on corpses! But the civet does not attack and bite humans in the habit of dogs. Civets are rarely seen because by day they curl up in branches or in tree hollows. Their lives are owl-like and the civet’ s ‘strange’ looks, evocative of a hybrid mongoose-cat, attract unwarranted myths and superstitions.
BEHOLD, BEHEAD NOT THIS BEAUTY
It had long been the yearning of his soul to catch a glimpse of the Brahma Kamal, a revered flowering herb of the Himalayas. He missed it while on pilgrimage to Kedarnath. But as the monsoons kindled the Himalayas into a rainbow of infinite colours, the valleys flanking the Hemkund Saheb pilgrimage brimmed over with Brahma Kamals. He abandoned the pilgrim’s path and scampered down a valley’s slopes.
“My heart was filled with tremors...at long last, I had come upon the flower of my dreams. I did not know whether I should first let my eyes gape at their beauty to quench the thirst of my soul or indulge the itchy shutterbug within me,” Howrah-based Rana Mukherjee told this writer.
One viewer, Atul Bhatt, went into a trance upon seeing Mukherjee’s beautiful photograph later and commented: “Even this mere pic of the supreme Divine kamal filled me with sublime fragrance...O Divine...creation”.
Watch out for this flower, you pilgrims to Hemkund Saheb, the blooms will relieve the weariness of the mountain trudge. But for God’s sake, O pilgrims from Punjab and rest of the Cosmos as they may be, please don’t pluck Brahma Kamals (Saussurea obvallata)! Also known as ‘The Sacred Lotus’, with petals strongly aromatic and like fragile pieces of tissue paper, the species has been notified ‘endangered’ because of over-harvesting for temple offerings and traditional medicines.
The herb grows at 3,000m to 4,800m, is Uttarakhand’s state flower and blooms till September. The flowers are hermaphrodite — have both male and female reproductive structures — and are pollinated by insects.