Ass you like it

The Wild Ass writes from the Rann of Kutch, (c) Young World, The Hindu, 2012

The wild ass is a happy animal. He writes to Aristotle to tell him about life in the Little Rann of Kutch.

Those spiteful creatures of the Western Ghats are making a fool of themselves; and people call me the ass. Never mind I say — what’s in a name anyway? Let’s put aside all these pesky animals and their crudity for a while. Come! Let me take you to a habitat you have never been before!

I live in a sanctuary, for I belong to an endangered subspecies of Asian wild ass. We are called Equus hemionus khur. You are bound to be impressed by our looks. We are reddish brown, smaller than a horse but bigger than Aristotle and his family members. We also have beautiful stripes on our rear. Believe it or not we can run at speeds of 50 kmph.

Our only home is the Little Rann of Kutch (or Katchchh, if you like.) You are not sure where that is, right? Kutch is a district of Gujarat.

It forms the northern part of the state, from the Arabian Sea to Thar Desert. Rann, meaning salt marsh, extends for about 21,000 sq km from the Gulf of Kutch to the southern regions of Pakistan.

Did you know that India and Pakistan had a dispute over this treeless, salt mud flats way back in 1965? Funny, they fought over our territory!

In a barren land

Never mind I say — we live happily among wolves, foxes, jackals and deer of many different kinds. I really cannot tell the difference between the chital, chinkara and the black buck. As I say, never mind.

It is amazing how we survive here. Both the Greater and the Little Rann are part of the Thar Desert. The land is barren and inhospitable. During the winter months, blinding white salt mounds lie by the side of shimmering pools of salt water. This salt is harvested by migrant tribal people who come here every winter. The cracked mud flats stretch for miles. There is not a blade of grass; there is not a bird or animal for miles. Imagine — just salt, earth and the sky! And a horrifying silence. We never mind that for we live on higher shrub lands of this region.

Come monsoon rains and you will not believe your eyes. The desert comes to life with exotic birds, plants and flowers. The rain, streams and rivers from the Aravalli mountain range and the surging sea flood the mud flats. Amazing number of birds from other lands, including hundreds of thousands of flamingos come to mate and nest here.

Funny how they make their nests! Standing in shallow waters, they scoop up soft moist mud between their long legs. They pat it into a cone with a slight depression at the top; and into this shallow cup, they lay one egg! Though I do not like their pink feathers, I admire their friendly happy nature. Of course, there are more species of birds. What can I tell you about them? Nothing except that they are noisy!

There you are! The land and its fauna, ass I see it! Come visit us at our sanctuary in the Little Rann.

Hee haw!

Wild ass

Reply from Aristotle

Cousin, you have not mentioned the Sambhar Salt Lake in your letter! It is India’s largest salt lake and located about 60 km west of Jaipur in Rajasthan. It is about 190 sq km in area and guess who comes here in winters? The same pink fellas!

Published as part of a series titled ‘Aristotle’s Mailbag’ in Young World, The Hindu, dt. Sept 3, 2012


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