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Give No Quarter

Give No Quarter

Author: Bittu Sahgal

In the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, a pair of Large-billed crows Corvus macrorhynchos send a Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri to the forest floor. The corvids worked in sync, one haranguing the feisty parakeet while the other one went in for the kill. Photo: Balaji Loganathan, ‘Large-billed Bullies’: Joint Third Prize – Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2014.

Crows fascinate me. In fact they have fascinated humans forever. Beyond The Crow and the Pitcher tale told by that ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop, varied world mythologies speak of crows and their intelligence with an admiration bordering on awe. Scientists too confirm that crows are at least as intelligent as apes and dolphins, with a brain to body-weight ratio that roughly approximates that of humans. What is more, crows possess problem-solving abilities comparable to that of an average six or seven-year-old child.

Incredibly, crows can also recognise human faces. They can tell an individual care-giver from one that poses a threat! Positron emission tomography (PET) scans reveal that the visual pathways activated in corvid brains – the mygdala, thalamus and brain stem – are the same as those activated in our own brains when we respond to emotions such as fear.

Crows, we know, are accomplished nest robbers. But this parakeet, whose world was ruthlessly turned upside down, discovered the hard way that crows are equally capable of cooperative hunting in the manner of wolves. The stark drama we see on this page reveals a pair of Large-billed Crows Corvus macrorhynchos, dispatching a Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri in the heart of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. The photographer, Balaji Loganathan, said the pair orchestrated a brutally efficient, harmonised hunt with one bird worrying and distracting the luckless parakeet, allowing the other to move in for the kill.

Such images tend to trigger responses akin to horror in many. Not in me. I was introduced to the finer aspects of birding by that Grand Old Man of ornithology, Dr. Sálim Ali. He was passionate about birds, but displayed not a touch of sentimentality. Speaking for myself, I see not a shred of cruelty depicted here. ‘Eat or be eaten’ is the universal law of the jungle. No quarter given. No quarter asked.

Mindless cruelty, on the other hand, is the preserve of the ape that walks. We speak no end of how civilised we are and how nature by comparison is red in tooth and claw, but it should give us pause to think about whose hand remorselessly extinguishes the beauty around us. And while we are at it, we might wish to ruminate long and deep that when nature’s retribution strikes, because we stepped way beyond set limits, nature, without a shred of cruelty, will give us no quarter either. metalo gaminiai ir metalo apdirbimas - www.vjmetalas.lt

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 6, December 2014.


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