Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bird protection - some historical bits

Observations on the decline of birds in India go back quite a bit. Given that most of us seem to see a decline in our own short spans, it seems like bird numbers and diversity were a lot higher in the past. Here are some bits and pieces from old sources on the motivations for bird protection.

Among the earliest observations of declines is one from Lucknow by George Reid who wrote in 1887. He speculates on the drought of 1877 as a cause of the decline in the populations of waterbirds. He then points out that the famine following it led to an increase in Singhara cultivation in the few wetlands left leading to a disturbance of waterbirds while also noting the disappearance of bird-trappers in the market. 
"With the average sportsman it is different. Usually one of the here-to-day-and-there-to-morrow type, he has no memories of the past to haunt him (except, perhaps, memories of another kind), and is content if he gets a shot now and again, and brings home a dozen birds composed of equal parts of teal and shovellers. Ye gods ! What a falling off is there!"
"For my part I have never even heard it whispered that wildfowl visit India in less numbers now than they did, say, ten years ago."
"The Crested Grebe, too, is another bird that has become exceeding rare in localities where formerly it was very abundant, but its scarcity now is due to another cause. Slaughtered wholesale and systematically for the sake of its beautiful skin, we now seldom see its silvery-white breast glistening in the sun. Slowly, but surely, too, our beautiful White Herons and Egrets are sharing a similar fate. A price has been put upon their feathery snow-white plumes, and man must needs debase his manhood by pandering to the insatiable vagaries or depravities of fashion." 
"If I have written strongly it is because I feel strongly on a subject that requires immediate attention. The destruction not only of Grebe, Herons, Egrets, Pheasants, &c, but of beautiful small birds of every description, is going on apace, and while the depredators are reaping a rich harvest by pilfering the nation's property—its game birds and the beautiful songsters of its woods and fields—those who ought to protect them by holding aloof are simply participating in their destruction. This state of affairs can only lead to extermination, when, of course, every one will regret the result, but—who would have thought it ? Echo then may well answer—who ?" (Hume adds an editorial footnote here - "An Act has now been passed to put a stop to this wicked and wanton destruction.")
George Reid apparently died on 16th March 1901. (A picture of his gravestone from Lucknow is here). Reid published a catalogue of the birds of the Lucknow museum. The story of the Lucknow decline does not stop there. Enter William Jesse, at the La Martiniere college, who received most of Reid's notes and wrote on the continued decline in 1902.
At the time that Reid wrote, the cultivated area was 2520 square miles, the remaining 1960 being taken up by usar plains, dhak-jungle, jheels, groves, and village sites. In the last twenty years, however, much land has been reclaimed and laid under cultivation—excellent, no doubt, from a political and economic point of view, but disastrous to the sportsman and the naturalist. Even within the last six years I have watched many of my favourite snipe-jheels replaced one by one by "smiling corn-fields," and, doubtless, as time goes on, the area of arable land will increase still further.
After identifying these habitat changes, he also points out the effect of guns:
"The principal offenders are the lower caste Hindus, Chamars, Pasis, Ahirs, and Bhatus, the Mahomedan shikari, and the poorer classes of Europeans, Eurasians, and native Christians. Numbers of gun licenses are issued in India, nominally to protect the crops; but no one, except the man who will not see, ever supposes that a native fires off shots to scare animals ; shouts and yells and hand-clapping do quite as much good, and at a far cheaper rate. Were the gun-barrels for crop-protection reduced to fifteen or eighteen inches, we should have fewer weapons slaughtering the living creatures, male, female, and young without discrimination, in and out of season."
By 1906, William Jesse seems to have become more of an activist and we see him noted as the honourable secretary of an Indian branch of the RSPB and managing a scholarship (£15) at the Meerut College. This leads us into a little bit on the RSPB and its relations to British India. The appetite for plumage in hats had resulted in significant hunting in India. It turns out that the law that Hume was referring to in his 1887 footnote was a bit of a failure. The Wild Birds' Protection Act of 1887 apparently did not do much to prevent smuggling, in fact it was so profitable a trade that it became a routine matter of bribery. As for Jesse's Indian SPB chapter, it was just one of three. There was in 1899 one in Bombay with the secretary E. Comber and another at Junagadh under Labhshankar Laxmidas. Jesse's unit was started a year later in 1900 (Palmer, 1903).

Jesse's note also points out rather tangentially that there was a certain amount of traditional protection to the wild birds provided by the sentiments of locals. He complains:
The native press has only to hint that the Indian is being-unfairly treated to call forth a storm of indignant protest from well-meaning people in England who are totally ignorant of the East and its ways, and are unable to form a proper estimate of the views of both parties. The European is constantly being forbidden to interfere with certain species which the native cherishes, and it does not seem too much to ask that he in in turn should be made to refrain from destroying birds and animals wholesale during the breeding-season. -  Ibis 44(3):478
The Society for the Protection of Birds was started in 1889 with mostly wealthy ladies as members. A rule was that "Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted". In 1904, the Society was granted a royal charter and got its Royal prefix. They also received support from several ornithologists, including Alfred Newton. The Society published many pamphlets and among them was "The Protection of Wild Birds in India" by Surgeon-General George Bidie.* Bidie was in the Madras Medical Service and a successor to Edward Green Balfour at the Madras Museum. He was also a bit of an ornithologist (among many interests including studies on the coffee stem borer in Coorg, the influence of trees on climate) and contributed to the Stray Feathers (where his initials appear to have been misprinted) 


"F. Bidie" = George Bidie (Stray Feathers 9:208)
Bidie seems to have been one of the early members of the RSPB who were working out of India. He seems also to have been quite active in the creation of the laws for bird protection. In 1879, the Madras government had passed some protection laws, a game law, that oddly enough protected exotics and aimed "to provide for the protection of game and acclimatized fish in the district of the Nilgiris." Balfour provides some information on the scale of the feather trade in the Madras Presidency while George Watt's book provides some idea of the species involved in the plumage trade. 
(1911) Feathers and Facts. RSPB.
The problem with the 1887 law was that it did not prevent the smuggling of skins which had great value in Britain. 


One of the plumes termed as "osprey", actually the nuptial plumes from an egret, was a particularly valuable commodity. It was even part of standard army hat until it was removed by an order passed, thanks to the activists of the RSPB.
The amazing device of the "artificial osprey" is another phase. During twenty years this stratagem wan employed to dispose of Egret plumes to women who did not wish to wear them. It was blazoned abroad in face of repeated exposure from scientific men ; and hundreds of young women in stored and shops were hidden to utter the falsehood and keep up the fraud. All manner of materials were deliberately cited as composing these indubitable feathers ; they were flatly affirmed to be made in factories that were never located, by workers who never existed. The deception was such as to discredit fatally any honest imitation which might be put on the market. A further illustration of the same phase is furnished by the story of imaginary egret "farms," where birds were said to be bred for plumage; of "moulted plumes" which whitened imaginary plains and were avowed to supply the sale-room ; - Bird notes and news
The idea that egrets could be farmed without harming wild bird populations apparently went on for a while and we see a note published in 1914 by George Birch which shows egrets held in cages.

James Buckland, a prominent writer and activist who led the cause of bird protection is quoted as having said:
"As an object lesson on the respect which the feather-dealer pays to the wishes of India—or of any other country, for the matter of that—that she may be allowed to keep her own birds for the benefit of her agriculture and of her people, it may serve a useful purpose to let you know that the plumage of all that is held most sacred in Hindu mythology, all that is most prized for beauty or utility, in the wild-bird life of India, is, to this hour, smuggled out of that country and sold in the London feather mart." - Bird-lore (1914):76-79.
References

Other links
* Another pamphlet published by the RSPB was India and her Wild Bird by Sir Charles Lawson

Postscript

  • Just finished reading a verbose newspaper account - SNIPE SHOOTING AT BANGALORE. (Western Times, 23 March 1839. p. 2) - 302 pairs of snipe shot in 23 days around the cantonment area by J. R. S....Y, A south hammer (nicknamed Devon) as a bet.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Catching flies

A botanical mystery

In southern India, the idiom "catching flies" refers to idling. It is hard to find a reliable source for that! Many years ago Zafar Futehally wrote about the flycatchers in a newspaper article that was titled "It's hard work catching flies". In the course of some idle browsing, I discovered this interesting bit from the pen of an Indian Medical Service officer, someone who clearly had some spare time for thoughts beyond the call of duty. Science as pastime was so common for them that they even had a journal for it - and we can all thank the National Library of Scotland for making these available online.

Scientific memoirs by medical officers of the Army of India


From the Scientific memoirs by medical officers of the army of India (1887)

I have spent a fair bit of time trying to understand its significance but it seems that someone should re-examine this. I know Wrightia tinctorea but not Wrightia coccinea. In the process of reading this I had to re-examine what I knew of insects and flowers. This resulted in my creating a Wikipedia article to cover the subject of trap flowers,  rewardless and deceitful pollination -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollination_trap - but it still leaves the question open - is this really a case of a trap flower? Or is proto-carnivory?

Further reading

Sunday, October 5, 2014

An artist ahead of his time

As someone interested in the birds of India and the history of their study, I decided to make best use of a brief visit to the UK in August 2014 to see the Hodgson and Tickell archives at the  Zoological Society of London. I was not prepared for the surprise it held for me and it was clear that too little had been written about these works, particularly in a medium that was accessible to the people of South Asia who ought to know more about this legacy.  My three hour perusal threw up many questions that need further research and it seemed worthwhile for me to leave some comments for future researchers. 

A bust of Hodgson in the library of the Natural History Museum, London.
Oddly, this bust is not mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
"...It must also be remembered that, while Gould himself was a skilled craftsman, many of the books that bear his name were illustrated by others, including H.C. Richter, Edward Lear and Joseph Wolf. Indeed, some would regard the last-named as the greatest bird illustrator, particularly in his birds of prey, which combine accuracy with power. One must, I think, qualify this statement by 'of the western world', because the bird paintings from India and China surpass anything that the West has yet produced, and only these, perhaps, come in the category of great art.- David Lack, Review of Fine Bird Books, 1700-1900 in New Statesman 1953, reprinted in Enjoying Ornithology. p. 176
For years, I have been wondered what those examples of Indian art might be and I finally have a candidate. Having seen other works from India belonging to the Mughal and Company schools of art, the claim seemed inaccurate. Most of the pictures of this period are flat, lacking perspective and often too small to be accurate. The draft drawings by Hodgson's artist(s) in the 1850s are however entirely different and do indeed rival the best works (including for example, those by Joseph Wolf) of the period, not only in artistry but for the care taken in capturing accurate postural detail from life.

Have you got the latest batch of drawings - twenty two sheets? And are they not wondrous work for a Nipalese? I have some more now executing which I dare any artist in Europe to excel and they are rigidly correct in their minutest detail.- Hodgson to James Prinsep cited in Datta & Carol, 2004, p. 138.

I only examined some bird plates in Volume I of Hodgson’s folios  (of 8 volumes, 1125 sheets on birds and 487 on mammals [Cocker & Inskipp (1988):33-34]) and it is clear that these paintings are drafts, but they probably offer more for the researcher than clean final plates (the ones held at  the Natural History Museum, which I have not seen). It might help if the draft versions and the final scanned images can be brought side-by-side to compare the styles and corrections incorporated. The draft illustrations in the ZSL are particularly interesting because of the numerous notes and corrections around the images as well as on the back of the sheets. These offer insights into the nature of the collaboration between Hodgson and his native assistants.

?चुरि थे?/ हे?. भौरा वास - some association with bees? for Microhierax



तरि वास - “inhabitant of the terai”

(Plate 40) A typical plate with multiple views, anatomical insets, notes. [Image rights belong to the ZSL]
Inset showing structure of sternum, furcula, toes and wing emargination details [Image rights belong to the ZSL]

Morphometric notes taken by the artist

मादिन (female)
  • चुच् से पुछ (bill) tip to tail
  • चुच् मुख से (bill) tip from face
  • चुच् माथ से (bill) tip from forehead
  • दीचा ? दीचा=ऊँचा =height of bill (A.Pittie)
  • चौरा - width (of what?)
  • पुछ tail
  • दाहिना (right? what?)
  • फैलाड? spread (wing span)
  • गोर
  • अंगुली नखसमेत toe with nail
  • पिछे अंगुलि rear toe
  • वजन weight


* the script used is not modern Devanagari. It appears to be somewhat similar to “Kaithi” as described by Eastwick but does not seem to match the description of Grierson.



Close up of the head of Falco peregrinus peregrinator - detail even in the pattern on the iris (and this is a draft)
[Image rights belong to the ZSL]
Hodgson published several notes on anatomy in the Journal of the Asiatic Society, particularly relating to mammals such as the red panda, Ailurus and the pygmy hog, Porcula. In a paper on Elanus (which he refers to in the text by its native name of Chanwa [Hodgson, 1837a]) published in the Madras Journal of Literature and Science, he shows some interest in the use of anatomical traits for bird classification. His foundations of taxonomy were based on the Quinarian system of Swainson which believed in a hidden order followed by the Creator, one based on a repeating pattern involving the magic number of five. The same Elanus paper is also interesting in that Hodgson explores behavioural similarities for the purpose of classification. It is possible that he never published such notes in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal where he would probably have deferred to Edward Blyth as the expert. Many of the illustrations include peripheral sketches of the furcula, sternum, tongue and feet. He was certainly well aware of the use of comparative anatomy in classification, but it seems like he trained his artist to look at these aspects as well.

Caption for illustration of Porcula salvania

लुफा भोटिया वॉली (? Bhotia valley)छोटा जंगली सुवर (small jungle pig)साल वन वास (dweller of Sal forests)

There were several script variations in use in Nepal and India in the mid-1800s. As someone with a working knowledge of Hindi, Sanskrit and modern Devanagari script, I was readily able to follow most of the writings and to understand the content. The fact that I was among the few that could read it indicated that these artefacts were not available to those who could appreciate it and to my mind there must be no shortage of interest particularly in the South Asian region. Based on the success of several online crowd-sourced transcription systems, one can expect that these can be readily transcribed if scans of the material were available online.

Here the artist's notes that the species is found only in winter (and migratory) [Image rights belong to the ZSL]


Reading through these notes one finds most often a statement on the habitat of the bird at its foot. They sometimes include one or more local names and sometimes notes on seasonality which make use of the English month-names transcribed in Nepali. Hodgson often made use of the distinctive local names in his scientific publications. He was perhaps among the few ornithologists in the region to incorporate local names into his proposed binomial names. Examples of these include his genera Sacfa, Lerwa, Cochoa and such species names as "salvania" (for little pig of the “sal van” or sal forests as in Porcula salvania). He was also, of course, among the major opponents of Lord Macaulay's idea of education through the medium of English and making his opinions known through such notes as his "The Preeminence of the Vernaculars, or the Anglicists answered". His use of local names to form binomials however did have opponents (mainly Jerdon) and he was forced to offer substitute classical names in 1841:
Although I think the prevalent humour of the day, which cannot tolerate any other than Greek and Roman names of genera in Zoology, is, in good part, absurd and pedantic, yet as I am told that continued non-compliance therewith on my part will be considered by most persons as a sort of excuse for past and future appropriations of my discoveries in this branch of science, as described in your Journal, I have now the pleasure to transmit to you a series of classical substitutes for my previous local designations. - Hodgson, 1841
The habitat notes include generalizations such as "always found in the mountains" or "always found in the Terai" which suggest that these are based either on the artist who had intimate knowledge of the bird or a hunter. Carol Inskipp pointed out that the artist and the hunter were different people. That Hodgson had trained hunters to collect specimens, we know from the notes of J.D.Hooker published in the biography by W.W.Hunter. He had to use hunters to obtain specimens from some areas as there were restrictions on his travel. [Cocker & Inskipp (1988):27-28] We do not know the identity of the artists for the specific plates, although it may have been Rajman Singh. There are however two styles in the depiction of the eyes in the birds which suggests more than one artist being involved. On the back of each plate, one finds a table of measurements. These were clearly made by the artist to aid in drawing the bird to scale, however the measurement also includes weight. It is clear that the plates were made to scale, and noted in Gray’s catalogue for each plate associated with specimens. On most pages, this table of measurements is translated into English presumably by Hodgson, however this does not appear to have been done with care. On one plate, matching by the unique numeric measurements, I found that the [peeche ka ungli] (=hind toe) measurement was copied into English against “weight”.  This comes as a bit of a surprise given that Hodgson was an eminent orientalist and Tibetan scholar, but we see in some of his Asiatic Society notes that he had someone else do the transcriptions in Devanagari.

Plate 35. A different artist? Note feather shapes and highlight of eye. 


Hodgson was interested in local research on the flora and fauna and it was quite clear that he did not enjoy the fact that most of the ornithological expertise, based only on skins and no field knowledge, at that point of time was in London (or Paris). He complained quite openly about this:



“...Whilst the face of our land is darkened with skin-hunters, deputed by learned Societies to incumber science with ill-ascertained species, no English zoological association has a single travelling naturalist in India; nor has one such body yet sought to invigorate local research, numerous as now are the gentlemen in India with opportunities and inclination for observation such us need but the appropriate aid of those bodies to render the investigations of these gentlemen truly efficient towards all the higher ends which the Societies in question are constituted to forward !" - Hodgson, 1837b



Is there then a possibility that Hodgson wished to include the names of the birds in Nepal for a work on birds that would also aid the people of Nepal? The book he wished to produce did not get enough subscribers in any case. [Cocker & Inskipp  (1988):35] Carol Inskipp pointed out to me that the idea seems unlikely given the cost of producing such a work apart from noting that the final plates lack the Nepali notes.


Structural details, relative positions of the feathers -
line of scapulars and tertiaries indicated
[Image rights belong to the ZSL]

The notes and corrections on shape pencilled over or alongside the paintings are also quite revealing. Plate 155 showing the Black Baza is particularly interesting. The feather patterning is shown with great care (a biography of Joseph Wolf for instance points out that prior to him, raptors were drawn with many errors in feather patterning - however as pointed out earlier the ancient Egyptians were exceptionally good artists) and along the edge there are line marks indicating the end of the scapulars and the line of the tertiaries and it seems to me to be one of the earliest illustrative works that takes structural differences into account. Modern field guides of course routinely make use of such relative positions of the wing tip and tail for identification. Plate 161 has a note that the colour of the iris is conjectured to be brown. This being the rare exception, one would presume that all others were made from either live or freshly killed birds as mentioned in Gray's 1846 catalogue (also in the 1863 second edition, preface ii).



The way the highlight of the eye is drawn to produce a lively effect is done in style that could be specific to the artist. Some of the earlier (by numbering) paintings show a very different style, sometimes seemingly off-scale. These appear to be the work of a different or less well-trained artist. The toes on the feet are always drawn with good perspective, and they stand in contrast to the art of the same period in the so-called Company style [Archer, 1964]  of art (compare the positions of the toes for instance in the works of Shaikh Zain al-Din or Bhawani Das for Impey)



There is clearly a lot to be examined and discussed but making the material accessible to researchers in other parts of the world would be a great step to take.

Image rights notice


All images other than the bust of Hodgson are property of the Zoological Society of London and may not be copied or used in any other publication without the prior permission of the Society. These images are reproduced here with the kind consent of the Zoological Society of London.

Acknowledgements
I am grateful to the ZSL for permission to view their holdings, librarians Michael Palmer, Emma Milnes and particularly Ann Sylph for her encouragement and assistance. Carol Inskipp provided many comments and insights from her earlier studies of the paintings. In no particular order - Ganesh Paudel, Nepal; Dr Jaysankar Jayaraman (CIFT, Kochi), Aasheesh Pittie and Lathashree Kolla (and her friends) helped in understanding the writings and the nature of the script. Wikimedia Foundation, USA supported my visit to London to attend Wikimania 2014; and Wikimedia UK's work at the ZSL was useful in making me plan my visit.

Postscript

4-November-2014: I discovered a line of text by Hodgson where he calls S.R. Tickell as his brother-in-law. A little further digging, aided by Henry Noltie, led to the fact that Hodgson's brother William who was in Bengal was married to Samuel Tickell's sister Mary Rosa. William died in 1840 and Mary went back to England and remarried. Tickell was an excellent artist and was with Hodgson in Nepal and it is possible that he may have worked with Hodgson's artists. Of course his wife Ann Scott was also a bit of an artist as indicated in his description of Sacfa hodgsoniae (dedicated to his wife "... whose accurate and tasteful delineations of Himalayan scenery will do much to attract attention to this fine field of scientific research.")
 
.

References

Grierson's script illustration
Eastwick's script illustration

More links to explore


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Naming the birds

Linnaeus apparently trumps internet popularity measures. I needed some easy visual depictions of bird taxonomy and suddenly found that things I had known to work no longer did. ManyEyes told me that my browser had an outdated Java VM. Updating it led to an error claiming that my security settings were too stringent (the dataset exists). Then I found Tableau Public

For the data, I went to the IOC worldbird names list (4.2) and downloaded the XLS file. I deleted the blank lines, the genus lines and retained only the subspecies for polytypic forms and the main species line for those that were monotypic. I then took the author column, removed the brackets, split it so that the year went to another field and then I was able to quickly produce a few visuals. Note however that this depicts the authors of the names and that usually refers to the descriptions of the species. The exceptions are when names are revived or when replacement names are used.

An interactive version (updated 9 July 2014)


Here are a few snapshots that look interesting. Remember that this is species/subspecies (genus descriptions are not included).

The biggest bird namers


The big bird namers by decade


The big namers in the biggest decades using a treemap

If species distributions are included, it might make for some more interesting views. It would likely show how the dominant contributions move from Asia to Africa and then to the New World tropics.

PS: There is definitely a login related problem on Tableau Public. It works intermittently so success perhaps depends on the load on the web-server.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A not-so-great hedge

Many would have heard about the "Great Hedge of India" or the book on it by Roy Moxham. This was supposedly a British innovation started in 1803, meant primarily to block the free movement (a.k.a. "smuggling") of salt so as to be able to impose a salt tax or customs duty. It was also referred to as the  "Customs Hedge" (e.g. in Hume's Nests and Eggs ... ). The idea of live hedges appears however to be much older in India and is probably lifted from the Mysore and Madras regions.

Bound-Hedge, s. A corruption of boundary-hedge, and applied in old military writers to the thick plantation of bamboo or prickly-pear which used to surround native forts.
 1792-"A Bound Hedge, formed of a wide belt of thorny plants (at Seringapatam)."- Wilks, Historical Sketches, iii. 217. [Hobson-Jobson]

Dr. M.B. Krishna recently forwarded an old map of Bangalore (from the British Library collection)  made in 1800 by a certain James Ross (more on this man in the footnote) under the command of Colin Mackenzie (who pops up yet again!) and it shows a nearly circular hedge marked as the "Bound Hedge of the Cusba of Bangalore". A little research showed that this defence was a widespread practice in the Mysore and Coromandel regions. Large cacti and some Euphorbia patches are found around the Nandi Hills and Savandurga and it is possible that some of them are really old remnants worthy of special protection. The hedge around Bangalore is perhaps less known.

Here is the relevant part of this very interesting map. The lake at the top with the bund along the road is presumably Hebbal lake. "Yesmunjepoor" is probably Yeshwanthpur.

The Bound Hedge of the Cusba of Bangalore (1800)

It seems like Bangalore just grew over this leaving no remnants of this hedge. It would seem like the hedge either passed through or went very close to the campus of the Indian Institute of Science. There were some patches of Acacia and bad land that may have been part of this but it is also likely that some of these were cleared up to become parts of roads that we have today. 

Looking up more on this "bound hedge" led to several bits and it seems to be very specific to India. Most deal with the "bound hedge" around Tipu's fort at Srirangapatnam or the one around Pondicherry. Sidney (1868) writes about the "bound hedge" around Madras, which apparently was being extended around 1758 according to Barlow (1921) but may have been even older as it finds mention in 1748 in the diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai.

It is said that the town of Conjevaram was surrounded by a bound hedge "chiefly of agave americana" (Hamilton, 1820) but that sounds like an unlikely jump for a New World plant for that point of time. For a more detailed botanical description of the bound hedge at Srirangapatnam, see Pennant:

"The Bound hedge, the frequent concomitant of the fortresses of Hindoostan, appears here in great strength. It is the practice in the Polygar system of defence, and copied by the civilized natives from the wild warriors of the forests. Of the latter, the fort of Calicoil and that of Palam Courchy are strong examples.... These local defences are formed of every thorny tree or caustic plant of the climate. Palmira trees, or the Borassus flabelliformis, are the primary. These are planted to the depth of from thirty to fifty feet. In the interstices of the trees, which are very closely placed, are confusedly sown or set, the following plants. Pandanus odoratissimus, or wild pine; see my preceding volume, p.241; Cactus tuna, Euphorbia Tiraculla, or milky hedge. The juice of this is so caustic as to scald not only the human skin, but the hide of a horse, on whom it may fall in forcing through this infernal hedge. Several other sorts of Euphorbia; The Aloe littoralis of Koenig, Convolvulus muricatus, and other Convolvuli. The Mimosa cinerea, horrida, instia, and another, as yet undescribed, armed with most dreadful thorns. The Guiliadina unite their powers; intermixed is the Guiliadina Bonducella, G. bonduc, and another not laid before the public, to which Koenig gives the epithet lacinians, which it fully merits. The Calamus rotang, or rattan, and the Arundo bambo, often assist in the impenetrability. The last is remarked to be admirable for the purpose, since nothing equals it in resisting the edge of the ax, or the subtile fury of fire. ..."
Note: I have unfortunately not yet actually read Moxham's book and would like to know if he mentions bound hedges. There is also apparently an MS by William Sargeant on the topic.

25 May 2014: James Ross (aged 23) was apparently someone who ran afoul of his superiors. He was one among several "Native boys" (India born Europeans) who had been trained at the surveying school in Madras. He was accused of several misdeeds during his service. Hunting instead of doing his work, mistreating servants and others and last but not least of seducing a dancing girl at Nanjangud. His superior John Mather ordered him to release the girl from the home the pair had found and Ross threatened violence. Ross was finally sent back to Madras with an armed escort! (Robb, 1998)

October 2014: I met Roy Moxham in London on 11 August 2014 and he was aware of bound-hedges.

Further reading