Yes. You read it right - urban wildlife in Mysore!
Well we are not talking about those rodents that roams the household backyards and the underground drains of the city.
If you thought this is about those cheeky monkeys ruling the lofty towers in the city's temples, you are wrong again. Elephants? No way. They are very much domesticated and are well knitted to the heritage moorings of this city. Is it about the tigers, lions and rhinos of the Mysore zoo? The answer is no again!
Enough of puzzling. We are talking about leopards, pythons, cobras and those massive crocodiles that make dramatic appearances in the city every other year almost on a regular basis.
A typical script about the big cat's brush with the city folks goes like this. A leopard is spotted spontaneously in a residential quarter of the city. The news spreads. Excited people mob the spot, making it impossible for the leopard to eascpe to from where it came. Forest officials arrive with tranquilizer to catch the big cat; police with their lathi to restrain the ever excited crowd. The later's task is tougher than the former's! In the melee many get pawed by the leopard, though fatalities if any is reserved for the leopard. The subdued animal is later released into a forest. Like a Bollywood movie, the story line is pretty standard for all the leopard encounters, but with minor variations.
The latest was a leopard's 'walk-in' episode at the swanky campus of Infosys in Mysore. It did not matter to that agile animal that he was straying into an the largest corporate education center in the world. That formidable 7 feet heigh wall with the electric fencing was no deterrent either, leave alone the gun toting guards and watchtowers. They must be still pondering how the cat breached the otherwise robust security cover, unnoticed.
Anyway in the early hours of the morning a guard spotted the leopard. He fired in the air to alert other guards. The whole Infosys episode started with that gun shot and ended many hours later by another shot, this time a tranquilizer shot fired by the forest department personal. In the mean time the chase had some dramatic moments, first when it escaped through a net and also when it pawed the official photographer of the campus when he rushed to take a close shot of the animal. Exhausted but uninjured the animal was finally caught after that tranquilizer shot.
Now part II of the same story. This time the venue is a fuel station near HD Kote, some 50km from Mysore City. The captured leopard was on its way in a jeep to the Nagarhole National Park where it would be released into the forest. The driver stopped at fuel station for refueling. The unsuspecting staffs and other customers at the fuel station watched in disbelief the sight of a leopard getting out of the jeep walk leisurely to cross the road.
Another chase is already on. But this time the leopard could not be as agile as it was during the first chase inside the Infosys campus. The tranquilizer drug fired earlier still had its effect, making the animal a bit docile. The" recaptured" animal was later re-released bringing an end to the feline episode!
Another leopard encounter happened in the city some one year before the infosys incident. This time the leopard was not lucky enough. It died of the shock and injury. A leopard was spotted in a residential locality near the base of Chamundi Hills. As usual the mob chased the frightened and ferocious cat. Many escaped from its jaws out of sheer luck. The whole drama even produced some award winning photograph (of the leopard wrestles with a man).
Snakes are nothing new to this city. Mysore has an one man snake rescue squad popularly called Snakes Shyam. People call him whenever and wherever a snake is spotted in the city. He catches the snake and later released to a forest nearby. To his credit is well over 40,000 snake rescues spanning over 3 decades. There is even a road named after him in the city.
One of the biggest catch was a 7 feet rock Python, again from somewhere near the Infosys campus.
Another "interesting" wild creatures in the city are those crocodiles found in Karanji Lake and the Kukkarahalli lake. It's rare to spot them. And when they make those rare appearances, it is a headline news in the city. After a brief stint the crocodile slips back to the lake bed.
Talking of the lakes, another species that makes these lakes their home -albeit seasonally - are the birds, not the typical suspects in an urban setup, but those intercontinental migrating varieties. You can easily spot Painted Storks, Openbills, Spoonbills and even those massive Pelicans inside Karanji and the Kukkarahalli lake.
The islands inside these lakes of Mysore city provide them safe and undisturbed place for nesting. The massive nesting places are of course the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary on the outskirts of Mysore and Kokkare Bellur , at a short deviation from the Bangalore to Mysore highway.
Bonnet Macaque is another (un)popular wild species found inside the city. From a conservation point of view these monkeys are labeled "Least Concern". Not so if you look from the urban civic authorities' perspective.
These are menace in many localities. This is not a peculiar problem for Mysore alone, you will find them in almost any town and cities of south India in general. Bonnet Macaque is a special case of wildlife overpopulation. The urban variety no more eat fruits, nuts or berries as their counterparts do in the wild. Rather they look for similar urban food. These monkeys do anything for food - snatch those popcorn bags from children, sneak into the kitchen, ripoff the overhead water tank lid to drink water to name a few. Challenge them, they will grimace with a hissing sound and show that intimidating canines. Bonnet Macaque are abounded around temples, parks and gardens and the likes were people bring food out in the open. You'll find them plenty atop the Chamundi hills. There is even an electric fence on the main tower of the Chamundeshwari Temple. It seems the macaques are not bothered. Their grin at you says so!