The jade green snake was trying yet again. He slowly crawled from where he had fallen…up to the base of the wall once more. Gathering all his might, he began his ascent. A step up he climbed, a step closer to escape. Adieu for good to the artificial jungle confines, he thought. “Look Pa’s almost there!” the tiny trinket snake whispered excitedly to his brother. “Maybe he will even get us a frog!” The grip messed up just then and down fell Daddy again. The slithery faces around him fell too.
Such seemed the life and times of Katrej Snake Park’s slimy inmates. They were mostly kept in partially covered pits – complete with tiny water pools and lots of plantation for added effect. I am not a reptile lover person – don’t get me wrong – but it kind of broke my heart to see the legless creatures crawl and crawl in vain.
The deer were a happier sight. Baby Deer was busy chomping off some luscious green grass while Momma Deer inspected a horned variety of the species with a green eye. Papa Deer posed for some photographs, much to the pleasure of a wildlife magazine team that was doing the rounds. They seemed content in their spacious confinement… perhaps the first memory they remember is growing up in the limited ‘jungle’ and have no regret whatsoever for what they have never seen. Or perhaps, they don’t believe in complaining.
I wondered what thoughts the grand tiger was engrossed in. He was all alone but for a mate in his space and showed off his velvet skin and well-shaped muscles with undisguised vanity. I am sure he thinks of forest canopies and deep, dark foliage in his dreams. To say nothing of leaping for that startled prey in the dead of the night. All he gets to do now is complain about missing his siesta.
My heart sang however, when we went birdwatching. There are no less than eight different species of birds around the lake of Katrej. As our paddle boat went around splashing, we saw several at play: some ducked in and out of the water, some set flight to the tree across the block. They made a colourful sight with their streaks of orange, red and blue. Lucky them. No sensation of limit to plague the mind, no known boundaries, the power to fly away to whatever land they desire, whenever they desire.
I caught the sun sneaking down the horizon today. He gave me a sheepish look as I mentally groaned about making my way back in the dark. He isn’t paid for overtime either, I surmised. I let him go to sleep.
How to go: You can easily get a bus/rickshaw to Katrej from Pune railway station. They drop you at a stone’s throw from the park.
Tickets: 10 Rs/- (not if you are from non-Indian lands)
Other fauna: Tortoises, porcupines, an orange iguana, crocodiles, two sleepy bears, leopards, a peacock with a harem of five peahens, barn owls, jackals, elephants, monkeys and more.
Excuse the picture clarity, but this demonstration here made me well up.
Above are the graves of the Dodo and the Indian Cheetah. The third gravestone says -“Reserved for the Indian Tiger.” The ground in front lies dug out, waiting patiently for the corpse of the last big cat.
I hope that pit is never filled out. I don’t want to stare blankly at my kids someday when they demand to know where the majestic creature in their general knowledge books disappeared.