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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Wildbuzz | Where rare eagles dare

punjab Updated: Feb 24, 2018 19:40 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
Pallas’s Fish eagle juvenile at Mirzapur dam, Punjab.
Pallas’s Fish eagle juvenile at Mirzapur dam, Punjab.(Rick Toor)

A magnificent eagle of the wetlands has again surfaced in the tricity region. The Pallas’s fish eagle was recorded at the Mirzapur dam on Friday, the earlier and first sighting of this species from the tricity region had come from nearby the Siswan dam on January 26, 2015. The bad news is that during that three-year gap, the eagle’s global status has been raised from “vulnerable” to “endangered”, given the fact that the population of mature individuals is estimated at less than 2,500 and declining due to a spectrum of disturbances to the eagle’s habitat, such as commercial fisheries at both the dams.

The eagle is known to hunt waterbirds as large as geese, pirate food from other predators and hunt fish in shallow waters rather than diving deep for fish. Latest research suggests that this eagle breeds in the sub-continent and migrates in spring to northern latitudes. This is in contrast to migratory waterfowl at wetlands such as the Sukhna lake, which spend winter in India but fly back to northern latitudes in spring to breed.

“Three satellite-tracked birds recently provided evidence that the species undertakes extensive, seasonal migrations of over 4,000km from India to Mongolia and Russia. Tracked individuals also demonstrated a previously unknown capability to fly directly over the Himalayas at altitudes exceeding 6,000m,” states researcher Marla Steele from the University of Arkansas (US), whose collaborators included raptor specialist Dr Vibhu Prakash of the Bombay Natural History Society. The satellites recorded that the eagles were flying at an average speed of 12-13 metres per second during migration and at altitudes comparable to the soaring migration of Bar-headed geese.

Soldier of Sukhna

Guarding the Sukhna lake reserve forests is a daunting task. Forest supervisor Ajay Kumar and watcher Sagar were on Thursday commended by chief conservator of forests Santosh Kumar for braving threats and foiling a group’s bid to bury a girl child in the Bird Walk jungles. This group comprised of seven men led by Chandigarh police head constable Darshan Singh.

Forest & Wildlife department Watcher, Sagar, of the Sukhna lake Nature Trail.
Forest & Wildlife department Watcher, Sagar, of the Sukhna lake Nature Trail. ( VIKRAM JIT SINGH )

In his four years of service, Sagar has established himself as an expert jungle tracker, who can determine the number of Rock pythons hibernating in a burrow by the variation of slide marks. He can differentiate between similar footprints of Golden jackals and Indian crested porcupine by the fact that the latter’s nails punch deeper. A sambar wounded by poachers at night not only leaves a blood trail but also a splay of hooves that Sagar’s expert eye picks up instantly.

Son of late ex-serviceman Shiv Dayal, the doughty Sagar has his hands full, warding off youths wanting to intrude into jungles for sexual activities and groups indulging in liquor and drug abuse. The Sukhna nature trail is a sensitive zone and is frequented by VIP couples for walks and jogs such as high court chief justice SJ Vazifdar and British deputy high commissioner Andrew Ayre.

Come monsoons and fish poachers invade the lake’s backwaters. Sozzled on liquor, they prove a dangerous lot as in earlier years, they have assaulted and wounded forest guards, Babu Ram and Paramjit ‘Biloo’, with axes and lathis. To his credit, Sagar has outmanoeuvred many a poacher gang and confiscated bunches of nets and hooks.

Elephants trending

Canadian PM Justin ‘Singh’ Trudeau did not tweet on his meeting with Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh but he did globalise his passion for Asiatic elephants. Trudeau fancies himself an environmentalist and is radical when it comes to politically-correct terminology. He prefers “peoplekind” to “mankind”. The Trudeaus spent quality time at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation & Care Centre, Mathura, on February 18, 2018. His kids fed elephants sugarcane, melons and oranges and felt the peculiar, velvety touch of gentle, dangling trunks.

The Trudeaus are not unfamiliar with African elephants, either. His wife, Sophie Gregoire, has an elephant named after her in the Samburu National Reserve, Kenya, along with elephants with such politically-prominent monikers as Michelle Obama and Martha Washington!

Trudeau, who posted a tweet with a picture of his Mathura interlude, also recorded a minute-long video conveying his concerns for Noah’s Ark swamped by “humanunkind”. “I am showing my son Hadrien how important it is to care for our wildlife, to respect the extraordinary nature that we have around us. As cities grow, as populations increase, we have to make sure we are taking care of elephants and other wildlife that have been here forever and are having to adjust to a world that is changing,’’ declared Trudeau.

The visit underscored the fact that most Indians, even those living close to the Centre, have not cared to visit the elephants to express solidarity. Some of these elephants were rescued from ghastly circus practices and begging tricks.

Canadians were quick to fire Twitter potshots at Trudeau’s Mathura tweet, citing the demand to rehabilitate the lonely elephant, ‘Lucy’, from the Edmonton zoo to a sanctuary, Trudeau’s support for seal slaughter, permissions for oil industry and an overall questionable delivery on his manifesto’s green promises.

First Published: Feb 24, 2018 19:39 IST

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