Friday, October 22, 2004

Gator Grabbing

Well today I picked up a Nalligator. Yep. A two-year old female, all of two feet long, with the dearest little paws and diminutive ridges all down her scaly back and a smooth-as-silk underbelly and the tiniest, darlingest wee set of razor-sharp teeth you ever saw ...

Yes, it's true, I am a gator-grabber. Actually, a general reptile-fancier, though I'm not brave enough to go running after wrigglies in the wild. But show me a hand-reared, farm-bred beast and I'm ready to place my extremities at risk -- because, of course, there IS no risk, with a friendly, attractive handler standing around, holding the beastie by its neck and tail before placing it carefully in my hands.

This interesting event occurred this afternoon at Madras's Crocodile Bank, a well-known tourist attraction started by Rom Whitaker and his (ex)wife Zai. They also started the equally well-known Madras Snake Park. I've been to the Croc Farm before and watched the snake-venom extraction and gawped at their (now) 16-foot Salt Water Croc, the largest of the world's crocodillian (sp?) species some of which grow upto 25 feet. But this was the first time I ever had a hands-on encounter. There was a rather fetching Green Iguana too, with skin the colour of moss and the texture of a very sturdy foot-scraper. I would have liked to get up close and cuddly to the gharials but our charming guide, a personal friend of my niece's, assured us that despite their impossibly dainty-looking jaws -- they look like a pair of pencil leads equipped with double rows of inch-long sharp white teeth tacked onto standard-issue crocodillian head and body -- they can do damage when provoked. Of course, human beings are not their average prey so they'd much rather run and hide when faced by one of us, except when defending a nest, whereupon they might stand their ground and wave their snaggle-toothed snouts threateningly in our direction.

While we watched, we saw a wading bird -- a Lesser Heron, I think -- actually snatch a fish out of the water not five inches away from a lurking gharial. And what did our ferocious aquatic predator do? Nada, that's what. No wonder they're on the endangered list! They can't even confront a Lesser Heron, for gosh sakes, how will they ever face the challenge of sharing a planet with the Supreme Predator of All -- i.e., us?

While at the Crocodile Farm, it was hard to ignore the several herds of Supreme Predator Familiensis. I have grown so misanthropic that when I see children dangling close to crocodile-pits, my one instinct is to push them in. Words such as "culling", "extermination" and "triage" come to mind -- nasty words, such as might be encountered only under extreme conditions like war and genocide -- but when one witnesses the rate at which our species is reproducing, surely we have to realize that these ARE extreme conditions? Catastrophic reproduction, spreading squirmy, greasy human duckweed across the face of our once beautiful water-planet ...

Okay, time to stop. Gotta suppress my demons and go to sleep -- ah, speaking of demons: I did promise to write an appreciation of BARTIMAEUS didn't I? But not tonight.


Hurree said...

If you ever drop in at a croc park called Kukrail outside Lucknow and happen to use the facilities, remember to look down as you're, er, occupied. When I dropped by some years ago, the proceedings were considerably enlivened by a pair of baby gharials, splashing around right underneath, very curious about what was going on above their scaly little heads.
Glad you've come out as pro-reptile. Had a pet snake (briefly, before my relatives found it and executed summary eviction procedures, exiling it to the Cal Zoo) who was not slimy at all but dry and cool to the touch, with each separate scale offering a different degree of tactile sensation.
I draw the line at snakes in the bathtub, though, but then I draw the line at anyone I haven't been introduced to in my bathtub.
Good to have you back, M.

Marginalien said...

Thnx, Hurree! It's good to be back at my own familiar log-in station. One of the downsides of travelling is trying to keep track of all the different log-in experiences one encounters in the homes of friends and family. As to reptiles and other scalies ... the little ones are deadly cute, huh? I can't IMAGINE what baby gharials look like! Their snouts must look like spiky knitting needles!

Meanwhile, as to bathtubs: what I have learnt from your comment is that you use 'em? Inneresting. I don't like bathtubs. This may be because there were tubs in my boarding school in Kodaikanal, but we were only allowed baths twice a week, ten minutes being the strictly allotted time-interval for each bath(it was a highly regulated procedure, with names, lists and timings. Missing your timing meant missing your bath for that session). The bathwater was poured in from buckets and the taps disconnected, to prevent us from augmenting the supply of water -- so we got four inches of scalding hot water in a tub that was four feet long and two-and-a-half feet across, which meant that our bums and feet got cooked while the rest of us froze over. Three years of this regime left me with a permanent dislike for tubs, with or without reptiles attempting to make my acquaintance!

Amrobilia said...

Hm! You get innerestinger and innerestinger!