Do lions live on trees?

IMAGE (C) YOUNG WORLD, THE HINDU, 2015

A letter highlighting the mystery of tree-dwelling lions arrives for the Hopper detectives. But lions don’t live on trees, or do they?

Dear Rock,

I ask you, “Do lions live up on trees? No, right? So do come down to the Western Ghats of India to solve this ridiculous mystery.”

Yours truly,

Purple Frog.

It was this letter that brought the team of a rock-hopper penguin, a frog and a grasshopper of Hopper, Hopper and Hopper Detective Agency to the dense forests of Sahyadri Mountains. It was a truly incredible experience for the three Hoppers to meet unique animals of this region. They met sly bonnet monkeys, noisy black langurs, stately grey langurs and chatty hornbills. There was, however, no sign of Purple Frog. Even after many hours of searching, they failed to find him.

Rana was at his grouchy best. “Didn’t I warn you that the fellow was a fake? I am sure there is no such thing as a Purple Frog. Have you ever heard of a pink rhinoceros?” he yelled in frustration.

Let-it-be pacified him with some info on the purple frog. “Purple frogs have been on this planet from the days of dinosaurs. He lives mainly underground and comes out only during the monsoon season.

“He is purple in colour with a pig-like face,” Rana snorted. “Purple, ugly and stupid too, I guess.”

Absent client?

Just then they heard a squeaky little voice from under a bush.

“Hey, big bird! Are you the Hopper detectives? I am Purple Frog who wrote you the letter.”

Rock silenced Rana with a stern look, as if to say ‘keep quiet’.

“Yes, we are the Hopper detectives at your service. Do tell us about the mystery you want us to solve!” he said.

The tiny frog was happy to oblige. He puffed his cheeks out, rolled his beady eyes and grunted through his piggy nose.

“Asiatic lions are found only in Gir Forest of Gujarat, right? Not in the Western Ghats and not up on trees, right? But they are here holding meetings on tree tops,” he whispered excitedly.

“Maybe you are imagining it, fruitcake,” jeered Rana.

The purple frog was persistent. He led the detectives to a big tree, where lo and behold, it seemed there were a number of ‘lions’ sitting on branches amid its thick foliage, their tails hanging down. Rock looked at the tails keenly.

“Yes, Purple Frog. There is something strange going on here. A long golden coloured tail with a tuft of black hair at the tip belongs only to a lion. Could it be that lions have escaped from the Gir Forest and come here to reside?” he asked thoughtfully, peering into the thick foliage to get a glimpse of the animals.

Let-it-be, though, did not think it was the Asiatic lions up there.

“Rana, come here real quick! I have a plan to bring these ‘lions’ down from the trees. Let us collect juicy fruits, rich berries, flowers and leaves and throw a party for all in the forest.”

Rana nodded with a sly grin. With the help of the animals of the forest, they collected a rich variety of food that they spread under the tree where the ‘lions’ were hiding.

“Hey, come and join the party!” shouted Rana while Let-it-be strummed some snazzy tunes on his guitar. Sure enough, the ‘lions’ leaped down from the tree to gorge on the fruits. Everyone looked at them with astonishment. Of course, they were no ‘lions’, but macaque monkeys with lion’s tail. Purple frog leaped in delight.

“I know you! You are the lion-tailed macaques.”

Rana rolled his bally eyes and asked “If you know so much about these monkeys, why did you call us? That was dumb, right?”

There was laughter all around as everyone joined the party.

Published as part of a series titled Open and Shut Cases in Young World, The Hindu on September 10, 2015.

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