Jorhat, March 3: Police arrested four poachers and recovered five moorhens from their possession in Majuli this morning.
The arrest comes after the police and forest staff intensified patrolling along the Brahmaputra with the assistance of village defence parties.
Nearly 40 migratory birds residing in waterbodies along the river had been killed and poisoned by poachers in the past two months.
Majuli beat officer (forest department) Atul Das told this correspondent that a police team arrested the four poachers with the birds inside two bags from Kharisakhua village under Kamalabari police station.
The moorhen is a species of medium-sized water bird with red beaks found in the region.
Das said the four persons have been identified as Tarun Pegu, Mohan Dutta, Bubu Dutta and Pradip Payeng — all hailing from the island.
The beat officer said the poachers have been booked under Sections 9,50 and 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 (amended in 2002).
He said during police interrogation, the accused said they had caught the birds from a waterbody last night, using gaslights to which the birds are attracted.
The four said the birds were to be sold to some persons at the river ghat, who, in turn would have taken it to Jorhat to sell it.
Das said patrolling by police and forest teams late at night has been stepped up as poachers are more active around this time. The village defence parties were also assisting them.
Divisional forest officer (Jorhat) N.K. Malakar said “good co-operation” with the police had resulted in today’s arrest.Malakar said apart from patrolling the riverine areas late at night and in the wee hours, a close watch was kept on roadside eateries to prevent birds being served on the menu.
Altogether 40 carcasses of migratory birds like the grey-legged geese were recovered from three different places in January and February from the outskirts here.
Many birds that had been poisoned were provided treatment at the local veterinary hospital and released in the wild afterwards.
The incidents triggered protests by students’ organisations and NGOs involved in bird conservation. They put up road blockades, took out processions and organised demonstrations in front of the district forest officer’s office here.
A public meeting was held at Bahona Tinali recently with the initiative of the forest department to form a peace committee, comprising students and NGOs involved in bird conservation, but the attempt failed as the residents alleged that the forest department and the police were “going soft” on the matter.
They had demanded that first the forest department and the police should investigate and arrest culprits responsible for killing the “winged guests”.