The Chandigarh forest and wildlife department’s rescue squad strives to reach the spot as speedily as possible. The team is credited with an estimated 600 rescues of wild creatures from human-dominated landscapes annually. A juvenile Russell’s viper, which fell in the empty swimming pool of the Punjab Raj Bhawan recently, saw the team of contractual rescue personnel complete the operation within 18 minutes of the call from the Raj Bhawan. The rescue team comprises traditional langur handlers, who would scare monkeys from homes. The practise being outlawed, they were fruitfully rehabilitated for rescues.

While rat snakes were the species most frequently rescued from the Punjab and Haryana Raj Bhawans, a spectacled cobra was also nabbed by the agile team from the Punjab Raj Bhawan last year. Punjab governor and UT administrator Banwarilal Purohit has come to the city from his tenure as Tamil Nadu governor. He took over from VPS Badnore, a renowned wildlife conservationist, whose brainchild was the bird aviary at Nagar Van.

Purohit, too, nurtures sensitivity towards wildlife conservation. During last week’s meeting of the Chandigarh State Wildlife Advisory Board, Purohit directed the department to enhance anti-poaching monitoring and ensure the Sukhna Wildlife sanctuary is not disturbed with a plethora of ‘easy pass’ tourism. Badnore and Purohit continue the legacy of the late Punjab governor Mahendra Chaudhary after whom Chhatbir Zoo was named. At one time, the Punjab Raj Bhawan harboured a mini-zoo set up in 1973.

The Raj Bhawan in Chennai had a 165 acre green reserve teeming with black bucks, cheetals and birds. However, then governor, Purohit, got wind of news that a deer had been slaughtered and feasted upon. Under his express directions, the culprits were traced and arrested to set a stern example that such acts would not be condoned.

Baby Wolf snake, eggs and shed skin of the mother from a Kansal basement; (right) a Wolf snake swallows a house lizard. (PHOTOS: SALIM KHAN & RAHUL JETHI)

The lizard wizard

Last Sunday’s Wildbuzz dwelt upon house lizards being bioagents of insect control. Lizards, too, have their controlling force, in the guise of the Common Wolf snake. A wiry, slippery hunter extraordinaire of lizards, the presence of Wolf snakes is marked not in jungles or scrubland but in unplastered, crevice-strewn brick walls and electricity switch boards. Where there are lizards, a Wolf snake may not be far behind.

There was one serpent that the tricity’s veteran snake-rescue personnel, Salim Khan, unearthed in a switch board whose transmission wires led to a tubelight in the living room. The snake would hunt lizards as they, too, left the switchboard and moved up the pipe casing the wires to gobble insects attracted to the tubelight.

The non-venomous Wolf snake mimics the patterns on its skin to resemble the common krait, India’s most venomous land species. This similarity is termed “Batesian mimicry, where a harmless species imitates warning signals of a harmful species to avoid predation”. Unfortunately, while the Wolf snake may scare off natural predators, who perceive it as a krait, humans making the same mistake do not pause and bludgeon the hapless lizard wizard.

Last week, international golfer and columnist, Harmeet Kahlon, discovered nine spent eggs of a Wolf snake, the mother’s shed skin and five hatched snakes in the basement of his Kansal house. Being wary of snakes, the Kahlons take to the terrace until the snake is nabbed, grabbed and bagged by the wily Khan. While the mother and four Wolf snake babies are yet to be accounted for, the Kahlons heaved a sigh of relief upon learning the brood was not of a krait. But a genuine krait did surface after that, at the gates of their mansion, which they endeavoured quite successfully to seal against all kinds of intruders. Sleepless nights?

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