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Alert in south Assam after owl number dips

Silchar, Nov. 1: District forest offices in Barak Valley have been put on alert against the practice of trapping and killing of various types of owls, particularly in Cachar and Hailakandi districts in violation of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The once commonly spotted birds are now fast becoming extinct in a vast swathe of south Assam.

The alert was sounded after the Cachar district forest office here noticed that many of the districtís 20 species of spotted or barred owls are now becoming increasingly rare.

A senior official of Cachar district forest office today said acting on specific information, forest personnel raided the residence of Rasomoy Das, a farmer, at Mankhush village under Lakhipur subdivision in the district last month and seized a mountain scops owl.

Das said he had purchased the exotic nocturnal and arboreal bird from a tea estate worker as he is very fond of these spotted birds with soft plumage.

The chief conservator of forests in south Assam circle, Abdul Shahid Laskar, today said hunting and trapping of this species of owl had been banned by the Centre.

The district forest department, however, is yet to initiate any action in form of either detention of the farmer from whose house this owl was recovered or slapping penal provisions against him for trapping the bird.

Forest department sources here said there had been no census of owls in Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts in Barak Valley.

The sources said a systematic mapping for estimating the total number of owls in south Assam by the state forest directorate is now under consideration.

Laskar made it clear that he would not hazard a guess about the number of owls of various types now existing in Barak forests and grasslands as no accurate and scientific survey about this regionís owls has till now been made.

Other forest officials pointed out that survival of owls even in Dima Hasao district is now at stake as droves of hunters frequently come to this region from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in search of different species of owls.

Dusky eagle owls, brown hawk owl and mountain scops owl are now in great demand for reported medicinal properties of their body parts. Forest officials here said in November 2010, two owl hunters were arrested by Hailakandi district police in Lala block. They were identified as Uchur Ali, 50, and Fazir Uddin, 55, both from Bihar.

Two NGOs in Barak ó Society for Activists for Forests and Environment and The Greens óled a campaign to save the owls from being totally obliterated from this region.


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