Beastly tales from Panidihing - Poachers, villagers poison birds in Sivasagar sanctuary for meat

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By RIPUNJOY DAS in Dibrugarh
  • Published 5.11.02

Dibrugarh, Nov. 5: After elephants, it is now the turn of birds to be poisoned to death.

The second bird sanctuary in the state, Panidihing in Sivasagar district in Upper Assam, is facing a major problem with villagers poisoning the exotic species for their meat. Some avians are also caught in small nets and sold in the local markets.

For instance, it was recently discovered that at least seven birds had died of poisoning inside the sanctuary, located in the southern part of the Brahmaputra. The birds were later handed over to forest officials by volunteers of Nature's Beckon, an NGO.

The “poisoning issue” has raised its ugly head at a time when Panidihing, 20 km from Sivasagar town on the Sivasagar-Disangmukh road, is set to hold a bird festival two months from now — in January. Member of Parliament from Jorhat, Bijoy Krishna Handique, has taken the initiative in this regard.

Sivasagar deputy commissioner Gayatri Baruah has, meanwhile, given an assurance that she would initiate action against “those found guilty of the crime”.

According to sources, poachers mix poison with grains and spray them in shallows where birds feed. “This naturally makes them easy prey. Largescale spraying of poison also kills the young ones,” the source said.

Before Panidihing — seven km away from National Highway 37 — was declared a sanctuary, a few tea planters and occasionally their guests from abroad often hunted the birds as a pastime. Now, local poachers from Sivasagar, with the help of a few villagers living in the fringes of the sanctuary, use pesticides to poison the avians, forest department sources said.