India: National Bird dying & no one knows why

KANPUR: Wildlife experts and locals of Etawah and its adjoining villages are a worried lot following the death of 44 peacocks. These birds had been found dead under mysterious circumstances in the region in the month of December last.

Forest department officials are perturbed as despite postmortem, they have failed to corroborate the exact cause for their death in such a huge number.

Earlier, in a similar incident reported from Bakewar village in Etawah, as per wildlife experts, the peacocks had consumed maize seed in excess from fields that had led to the casualty of 12 peacocks in the region. The claim had been confirmed by the forest department officials after the postmortem, they said.

Wildlife experts and locals, who had never seen peacocks dying in such a huge number, however, claimed that the National Bird was being killed for feathers. The feathers were used in making hand-made peacock feather fans by a group of people active in several villages of Etawah.

With increasing deaths of the National Bird being reported from various parts of Etawah, they have demanded a check on illegal trade of peacock feathers. They say a group of people are involved and are running it like a cottage industry.

Though trade of felled feathers is allowed in India, wildlife experts fear that huge demand for feathers leads to poaching and subsequent killing of the birds.

Wildlife experts alleged that by allowing the sale, purchase and transport of peacock feathers, the government had almost given a green signal for poaching of the bird.

“Authorities responsible should immediately put a ban on the trade as it is the main reason for the killing of the National Bird in the region,” said Dr Rajiv Chauhan, secretary, Society for Conservation of Nature.
“It is only because of this trade that large-scale killing of the National Bird is taking place in Etawah and its surrounding areas. Our National Bird will surely end up on the critically endangered list,” he said. “Ironically, till date no census has been conducted on peacock population in the region,” he added.

Dr Chauhan further said about a dozen villages viz Thakuripura, Keshopura, Raura, Kothi Bazar and Nagla Chatur in Etawah districts were proving to be extremely dangerous for peacocks. Maximum deaths are taking place in and around Bharthana.

According to another wildlife expert: “Most of the poaching is done during winters when they rarely shed feathers. The colourful tail feathers of peacock develop at the age of three. And the tail feathers are shed annually, usually during the summer months.”

Farmers also contribute to their lessening number by way of poisoning peacocks to protect their crops. “So this is another reason for a number of peacocks being killed,” he pointed out.

Elaborating on the modus-operandi of poachers, Dr Chauhan informed that poachers first poisoned peacocks and then removed their feathers. Many a times, the use of pesticides in farms also killed the birds.

“In our childhood days, we used to see a number of peacocks, particularly during the rainy season. But now their number is gradually declining. The reason is unknown. Peacock is our National Bird and it should be preserved. The government and the people should work together for their survival,” said Kewat Lal, a local of Etawah.

The peacock is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Zoologically named Pavo Cristatus, soaring sale and demand for peacock feathers and meat is worrying environmentalists.

The male peacock sports around 150 long “eyed” peacock tail feathers with which most of us are so familiar. These feathers are shed annually during the summers. These feathers are actually long extensions of the upper tail covers. They are supported from underneath by the much shorter tail feathers. These feathers grow to be several feet long, but are shed each year just after the breeding season. Each of these long feathers also has a design near its tip which resembles an eye.

Peacock our National Bird and its feathers, adorned by Lord Krishna, are considered auspicious by many of his followers. The peacock is also regarded as the carrier of Lord Muruga and Kartikeya by the South Indians.

From TOI

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