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Poaching threat to winged visitors in winter
- Champaran faces crisis in absence of strict enforcement of law around water bodies popular with birds

Motihari, Dec. 25: For thousands of migratory birds, the warm comfort of innumerable water bodies in Champaran is virtually lost to the mighty and greedy poachers.

According to rough estimates, only half of the 20,000 and odd winged visitors safely go back home — mostly in the northern Himalayas or central Asian region — every year.

It is not uncommon at local markets to witness people paying exorbitant prices to relish the delicious flesh of these migratory birds, only encouraging the poachers to go for the killing.

Besides Sarotar Jheel in the Gandak catchment area, the feathered creatures have found another site in East Champaran at Saraya Mun (lake). There are nearly four such sites in West Champaran district and a few in the neighbouring Vaishali district.

Birds species which are commonly found in the districts include Red-crested Pochard, Eurasian Teal or Common Teal, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveller, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Snipes and Sandpipers.

Apart from some roadside huts on Chakia-Sarotar road, poachers could also be easily spotted selling these birds or their flesh on NH-28(A) near Piprakothi as well as in the markets of Kesariya and Kalyanpur at prices ranging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000 per kg, said Neeraj Pandey, a local villager. “Several affluent people in north Bihar also regularly call up the poachers on cellphone and place order. The poachers deliver the birds at pre-designated places,” he added.

Divisional forest officer L.B. Manjhi could not deny that they get reports about poaching of the migrant birds every year. He said: “In the department’s monthly meeting on Thursday, I have asked the foresters and rangers to start drive against poachers till the winter ends and book all those who are found violating the provisions of the Wildlife Prevention Act, 1972.”

Chakia SDO Kaushal Kishore echoed Manjhi. “A drive against poachers is necessary. Besides taking action under legal provisions to check this illegal practice, awareness drives against the practice are also required,” he said.

Owners of the low lands, preferred by the birds to make their winter stay for laying eggs and breeding, are also said to extend help to the poachers. The poachers usually lay traps in form of nets and catch the birds before daybreak. The birds are kept away from public view preferably in the sugarcane fields and later brought out in small numbers according to market demand.

“We sell a number of species of the migratory birds at higher prices according to their demand,” said bird-seller Tabaraq Hussain of Sarotar.

The government ban on bird hunting in the 800-hectare Sarotar Jheel has proved practically ineffective. It has hardly any control over the poachers for whom these birds become the main source of livelihood for nearly four to five months.

“Although a constant decline has been registered in poaching of these animals in the recent years but a complete poaching ban is required with desired administrative assistance,” ornithologist Arvind Mishra said.


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