Avian influenza threat to cockfights in Mayurbhanj - Government compensation for culled birds smaller than price tags carried by prize cocks

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By BIBHUTI BARIK AND SIBDAS KUNDU
  • Published 19.01.12
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Bhubaneswar/Balasore, Jan. 18: Cockfight, a favourite pastime of the tribal people, may fall victim to bird flu.

The people’s fear that culling, taking place in Mayurbhanj and Khurda following detection of avian flu cases, would sound the death knell for the sport.

The government compensation for the culled birds is smaller than the price tags carried by the highly prized fighting cocks.

The Mayurbhanj people are known for their love of cockfights, which acquire a feverish pitch on festive occasions such as Makar Sankranti. This Sankranti, however, was the first in a long time that cockfights receded into the background.

While the fisheries and animal resources development department has fixed at Rs 70 as the compensation against culling a large fowl, a fighter cock can fetch Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,000, depending on its breed and record as a fighter. The tribal-dominated district is famous for indigenous fowl breeds such as hansil and hazra.

“The fowls in the district are scattered and the rapid response teams, deployed by the state government for culling at Bahanada in Mayurbhanj, may find it difficult to get them all together. The people may not cooperate as culling means a huge loss to them,” said Banbihari Mohanty, a lecturer in a local college at Betnoti.

The Mayurbhanj people’s rear indigenous poultry as an alternative livelihood option. Some families even earn between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh during Makar Sankranti, when cockfights take place at the local market. “So, the culling would cause heavy loss to the tribal families,” said Mohanty.

According to the central directive, 10 rapid response teams will cull around 7,000 poultry birds at 31 villages within 3km radius of Bahanada at Betnoti block. The exercise began this morning under the supervision of two deputy directors of the department — Girish Chandra Sar and Prafulla Bisoi.

“The culling is being done under strict monitoring norms and the ground report is given to the department every half-an-hour. Apart from our staff, 30 livestock inspectors and seven veterinary surgeons on deputation would assist us in the culling,” said Nityananda Das, chief district veterinary officer.

“The exercise could last four to five days since the birds are scattered and reared as backyard poultry. We have been advising them not to let their fowls run free,” he said.

In another development, 1,748 birds were seized today from a vehicle near Betnoti. All these birds were being transported to Jamshedpur from Cuttack. This poultry stock would also be culled, said department sources.

Senior officials of the department said the culling might affect the genetic pool of Mayurbhanj’s indigenous varieties. However, the majority of the birds, seen in the hilly areas, are geographically isolated from the other areas.

Betnoti block could have a sizeable stock of indigenous fowl varieties, but it may not match the stock found in the hilly tracts of Mayurbhanj.