| Villagers and forest department personnel release a vulture at Lajungpathar on Tuesday. Picture by Gunadhar Konwar |
Jorhat, April 22: Villagers of Lajungpathar, a remote village in Tinsukia district, witnessed a unique celebration of Earth Day today with the forest department releasing six vultures and a rare crested serpent eagle. All these birds had been poisoned in the village a few days back.
The villagers participated in the celebrations and took an oath to protect the vultures, which play a crucial role in keeping the earth clean.
The seven birds were found ill along with the carcasses of seven other vultures and were treated at a mobile veterinary service centre at Saikhowa. They all recovered and were released today at the same place from where they were rescued.
“The villagers promised to take extra care and do the needful for the conservation of these vultures,” Ranjan Das, the divisional forest officer of Doomdooma forest range, told The Telegraph.
Das said the villagers have also decided to plant tall trees in the area so that these birds could nest on them. “The forest department will provide saplings of tall trees to the villagers,” the forest official said.
He said elderly villagers, including women, released the birds one by one from the cages in which they were shifted to the particular place, 10km from the rescue centre.
The initiative to make the villagers a part of the “releasing event” of the birds was taken by Gunadhar Konwar, the director of Evergreen Earth, an NGO based in Upper Assam, who is also the honorary wildlife warden of Tinsukia district.
Konwar said it was not possible for the forest department or NGOs to carry out conservation of wildlife without the help of the local people. “There was a lack of awareness among the villagers about the importance of the vultures. We told the villagers today about the importance of these birds and they have agreed to protect them.”
He said a few villagers were moved to tears when they understood how these scavengers were useful to the environment and promised to do their bit in protecting them.
The six vultures and a crested serpent eagle released today were found unconscious along with the carcasses of seven more vultures in a paddy field near the village. The birds had consumed the carcass of a cow which was laced with poison. Das said it was not clear what poison was used to kill the birds. It could be possible that the carcass was laced with Diclofenac, the veterinary medicine responsible for the dwindling population of vultures.
Vultures suffer from kidney failure when they consume animal carcass that has been administered Diclofenac. “We have sent samples of the carcass to the forensic laboratory to ascertain the poison used,” the forest official said.