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It was early morning in Tal Chapar blackbuck sanctuary in Rajasthan. “Pull over” I shouted in excitement and my friend, veteran wildlife photographer Kamal Sahansi, braked hard on the jeep. “Neel Kanth, wow! Beautiful” don’t make any sound. Just click,” said Sahansi, sharing expert advice.
There it was, my favorite bird-the Indian roller on a perch, looking up at the skies as if communicating with the almighty. Called the Neel Kanth in India, it is considered auspicious. People say if you get ‘darshan’ of Neel Kanth during the Navratra festival, your wish comes true.
According to popular belief, Lord Rama is said to have seen the Neel Kanth before setting on his journey to fight Ravana. Folklore says that sighting a Neel Kanth on Dussehra helps absolve people of their sins. To exploit this sentiment, poachers hunt the India roller and ‘exploit” the faithful by organizing ‘darshans’ in lieu of money — which is illegal.
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This was my first ‘encounter’ with the Indian roller and he sat quietly. It wasn’t interested in giving us a demonstration of his wonderful acrobatics from where it gets its name from.
A flash of blue, a splash of orange around the eyes, and a beautiful roll in the air describe this exquisite bird. The roller rolls in the air in a flash of blue and ochre. It could be catching insects, giving them a flash of its beauty before they disappear down its throat. One wonders whether this bird was given a chance to be considered our national bird, a title that the peacock has won. While the species is found from Southeast Asia to the Arabian Peninsula, Indian rollers are commonly found in the heavily populated plains of India, therefore figuring prominently in local lore.
The name Neel Kanth means “blue throat,” a name associated with Indian deity Shiva, whose blue throat resulted from drinking poison. Other common names are “blue crow” or “blue jay,” perhaps because rollers display crow-like attributes – being noisy, comfortable around humans, and omnivorous.
One can identify the Indian roller is a stocky, medium-sized bird with an overall drab brown appearance whilst perched. The bird is approximately 26-27 cm long and both male and female Indian rollers look alike. Male rollers perform acrobatic aerial rolls during their courtship displays, and sometimes as a defensive tactic around their nests.
There are 12 species in this family. Rollers are crow-sized birds found in the warm areas of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the islands of the South Pacific and they have small bills and medium to long tail feathers. Most rollers are a combination of blue and brown in color.
They fly straight up into the air, fold their wings, and fall freely towards the ground; they then roll over and fly up again! They eat insects while they are in flight and often perch on a branch waiting for prey to go by. Indian roller is one of the most colorful birds of India whose colors are visible during flight. Found across the plains in India, it is the state bird of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Odisha. Their calls, ‘chack-chack’ are crow-like and the frenzied flapping of their wings shows off their vivid colors.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: दुनिया की सबसे बुजुर्ग महिला केन तनाका ने मनाया अपना 118वां जन्मदिन
Their cousin, the European roller (Coracias garrulus) migrates to India during winter. Predominantly blue, the European roller is a passage migrant and visits India briefly in the winter. The dominance of the brown color is what helps to differentiate the Indian roller from the European roller. “The European roller looks the same as our Neel Kanth”, was my first reaction when I saw this species closely in Sultanpur, near Gurugram.
“See this in a flight and it looks beautiful”, says my photographer friend Vishal Chowdhary, who managed to get the flying shot. “The Indian roller has lilac color marking on its face, while the European roller has a blue head. It has no marking on the head and possesses chestnut coloration on the wing and back. In addition to this, the Indian roller has bluish, lighter and darker blue wing color combination.”
A threatened migratory bird, the European roller is the only member of the roller family to breed in Europe. Its blue and brown-colored plumage is its most distinctive feature. Until 2010, little was known about this bird’s migration patterns and wintering.
For the first time, scientists from nine countries discovered the routes taken by this species which is currently in a fragile state of conservation. Researchers have been able to uncover this information with the help of geolocators and satellite transmissions. Each year, the European roller covers close to ten thousand kilometers all the way from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa via India and repeats such a long journey again in spring.
While European rollers are on the list of the endangered species, the Indian rollers are described as least concerned by the IUCN. However, experts feel that Indian rollers are not so common these days. In fact, they are facing a crisis due to indiscriminate hunting by poachers and the use of pesticides.
The government has launched a 10-year plan to help in the conservation of birds and their habitat. Capturing and displaying Indian rollers is illegal. They are protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 which carries a penalty of Rs 25,000 and imprisonment. India is also the president of the Bonn Convention (Conservation of Migratory Species of Wildlife, CMS) under the UN.
Nearly 370 species of migratory birds visit India through three flyways – Central Asian Flyway (CAF), East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), and the Asian-East African Flyway (AEAF). India has been working through many programs for the protection of these species. Next time you see these beautiful birds, remember they are a boon for farmers as they eat insects and worms from farmlands. These birds are natural pest controllers. (IANS)
Hackers have stolen crypto tokens worth $120 million from Blockchain-based decentralised finance (DeFi) platform BadgerDAO. Several crypto wallets were drained before the platform could stop the cyber attack. In a tweet, Badger said it has received reports of unauthorised withdrawals of user funds. "As Badger engineers investigate this, all smart contracts have been paused to prevent further withdrawals. Our investigation is ongoing and we will release further information as soon as possible," the company said late on Thursday.
According to the blockchain security and data analytics Peckshield, the various tokens stolen in the attack are worth about $120 million, reports The Verge. According to reports, someone inserted a malicious script in the user interface (UI) of their website. Badger has retained data forensics experts Chainalysis to explore the full scale of the incident and authorities in both the US and Canada have been informed. "Badger is cooperating fully with external investigations as well as proceeding with its own," it said. DeFi is a collective term for financial products and services that are open, decentralised and accessible to anyone. DeFi products open up financial services to anyone with an internet connection and they are largely owned and maintained by their users. While the attack didn't reveal specific flaws within Blockchain tech itself, it managed to exploit the older "web 2.0" technology that most users need to use to perform transactions, according to reports. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: crypto wallets, BadgerDAO, decentralised finance, Blockchain, 120 million, crypto tokens, Hackers)
A total of 120 top Bollywood and other celebrities are expected to attend the wedding of film stars Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal which is scheduled on December 9 in Rajasthan, said Rajendra Kishan, the District Collector (DC) of Sawai Madhopur district of the state on Friday. The District Collector told mediapersons: "These 120 guests shall follow all COVID-19 protocols and fully vaccinated guests will get entry in the much-hyped celebrity wedding."
Kishan said that the organisers have been asked to strictly follow all Covid-19 protocols. Also, those who are not vaccinated, will not be allowed without the negative RT-PCR test report, he added. "We have been informed by organisers that a total of 120 guests are invited to the wedding and the events will take place between December 7 to December 10," he added.
Earlier at 10.30 a.m., Kishan called a meeting which was attended by administrative, police and forest department officials, hotel and event managers to ensure adequate arrangements for crowd control, smooth regulation of traffic, and law and order situation amid the VIP movement. The wedding venue Fort Barwara, that has been converted into a heritage hotel, is situated in the panchayat samiti Chauth Ka Barwara. The venue is around 22 km away from Sawai Madhopur and is around 174 km from Jaipur. Sawai Madhopur district is famous for the Ranthambore National Tiger Reserve and as per reports, the guests are likely to be taken for a tiger safari. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: Rajasthan, December 9, Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif, film stars, celebrities, Bollywood, Katrina-Vicky)
The National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), which confirmed the first two cases of the Omicron variant in Bengaluru on Thursday, is continuously monitoring the situation in four cities - Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Pune. The NCBS is a part of a consortium of national laboratories performing genomic surveillance across four city clusters. The consortium was established four months ago with support from The Rockefeller Foundation's Pandemic Prevention Institute, and is led by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad.
Dr Rakesh Mishra at the CCMB said on Friday that the consortium is continuously monitoring the situation in all the four cities and has upscaled its efforts to sequence as many samples as possible Apart from the CCMB and the NCBS, the consortium includes CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology - IGIB in New Delhi and the Pune Knowledge Cluster, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
The first case of the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24. | Unsplash
The consortium is focused on upscaling genomic surveillance as part of national efforts led by the INSACOG - Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium - to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The consortium intensified its sequencing efforts after the World Health Organisation announced Omicron as a Variant of Concern. Such an intensified effort enabled the Bengaluru team at the NCBS, a member laboratory of INSACOG, in collaboration with Strand Life Sciences and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), to detect, rapidly sequence and verify the existence of the omicron variant in samples from two Covid-19 infected individuals.
They hope this will aid in a rapid response to contain the spread of variants of concern. Prof Satyajit Mayor from the NCBS conveyed the information to local and national authorities, and the Indian government released a statement on December 2, all within four days of receiving the samples. Both SARS-CoV-2 genomes have also been uploaded to the global repository for SARS-CoV-2 sequences, GISAID, so that they can be publicly available to the scientific community, the NCBS said. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: Hyderabad, New Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, The National Centre for Biological Sciences, Situation, NCBS, Omicron)