Let the birds fly free, is the latest message from Writers’ Buildings. Taking a cue from NGOs and animal rights groups, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government is appealing to bird-owners to set free the caged creatures kept as pets. “Keeping birds in the claustrophobic confines of cages is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act,” said state forest minister Jogesh Burman on Thursday.
“It is never too late to set them free. The law doesn’t allow anyone to keep birds, other than crows, under confinement,” the minister added. And, the forest department is willing to lend a helping hand in this regard. “The department will take the responsibility of setting the birds free in their natural habitat. We are just asking people to come to the forest department with their pet birds. We will do the rest,” Burman explained.
Most birds, if kept under confinement in cages for long periods of time, are no longer able to fly effortlessly. The government will take care of these birds and “train” them to fly again. There is also the danger of bigger birds, especially crows, on the prowl to hurt and injure small birds. Hence, the government hopes to take care of the birds before setting them free in forests, rather than in the city.
The message will be passed on to Calcuttans during the forthcoming Wildlife Week, beginning November 6. “We will involve children in various games and drawing competitions, to make them aware that even if it is good to love pets, animals are happiest in their natural surroundings,” an official of the department said.
However, this is only an “awareness” drive, and no “force” is involved, Burman clarified. “We will not take any stern action against bird-owners immediately. We now want to appeal to people, and expect that animal-lovers would be humane enough to listen to us. Penal action comes later,” the minister added.
The government, however, has no figure of the number of birds kept as pets, nor how many are bought and sold in the city every day. “We raid markets from time to time to prevent such sales. The sellers are aware that their trade is not legitimate, and we are not encouraging it,” Burman said.