Wildbuzz | The viper and the squirrel

The attraction of hard-earned food is such that snakes are reluctant to reject their prey even if humans are present as an unwanted audience. A series of definitive photos in rich, dazzling colors captured a Russell viper ingesting a squirrel in broad daylight in the parking lot of the teachers’ apartments at Punjab University.

The viper was in plain view of panicked residents and the rescue team, but it didn’t move until it had completely taken over the squirrel. The rescue team also didn’t indulge in the sentimental stupidity of trying to “save” the squirrel from the viper!

The photographs were clicked by Dikshant Kanojia, an aspiring naturalist and wildlife rescuer. Kanojia comes from a humble background, but works part-time to fund his passion, while pursuing an undergraduate degree in the arts.

Vipers use a variety of hunting techniques. They can ambush and bite its prey and wait for it to perish before ingesting it. Or, a viper may grab prey without biting it, then ingest it head first to reduce resistance to beatings. It could bite the prey when swallowing it because the venom aids digestion.

When it comes to a squirrel, a viper can swallow it quickly because the venom takes a long time to kill. The viper feels that a bitten squirrel may still have time to scurry up a tree and find its last refuge in a hole beyond the viper’s reach.

The eagle’s talons bloody rake the monitor lizard. (PHOTO: RAJKUMAR DONGARE)

Sadness of flowers, flowering of blood

The role that chance or luck plays in human-wildlife interaction has been emphatically emphasized, with a touch of ruthless irony. An unlucky wildlife photographer could spend years stalking mighty eagles without framing a noticeable predatory moment that could set a new benchmark for action photography. On the flip side, a disappointed photographer looking to capture something else might be treated to a spectacle so unsurpassed that it could feast viewers for a century.

Rajkumar Dongare was exploring the outskirts of Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, to photograph the Caralluma fimbriata flower, an iconic plant whose extract is consumed by tribal hunters to suppress hunger and thirst before embarking on long shikars. Specializing in the photography of flowers and not birds, Donagare was shot because the cattle had grazed on the flowering meadows. Luckily, his companion, Amit Kuwal, noticed a waving Bonelli’s eagle 15 feet away. For 45 minutes, they closely witnessed the eagle killing and eating a solid monitor lizard (Goh) in plain sight.

The eagle jumped several times to gain momentum for impact. The eagle would land hard on the lizard and the talons would sink deep. The lizard’s left front paw was mutilated when the eagle lifted the heavy reptile. Suffering from unimaginable pain, the lizard struggled to break free from the golden rakes. His blood spurted to scatter the herbs devoid of seasonal flowers. As life ebbed from the restless lizard, the eagle calmed down. The flattened grasses of the battlefield curved cautiously, and they were ultimately “petals,” with delicate spots of crimson blood.

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