ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE: The only reason pet bird trade continues to flourish is because many of us continue to buy caged birds. It is at times when the illegal and inhuman practices of pet traders are brought to light that a few pause to ponder over the plight of these unfortunate winged creatures. In one such recent incident, West Bengal forest department officials arrested three smugglers and seized about 200 endangered birds that were to be sold as pets. The birds were allegedly being transported from a hideout in Rajabazar to a pet market on Galiff Street in north Kolkata. The seized birds, valued at about Rs. 3 lakh, include 151 munias and 21 parakeets.
According to the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Pradip Vyas,
“The arrested trio, whose names are Mohammad Osman, Mohammad Sulaiman, and Mohammad Saheb, are habitual offenders and kingpins of a widespread racket.”
Officials said that in the past the squad raided the pet markets but smugglers often managed to get away while their associates attacked the officials. This time the squad decided to nab the perpetrators while they were transporting the birds to the market place. The officials further added that the seized birds would soon be released into the wild.
Birds make fascinating pets, especially gregarious parrots and adorable love birds. Yet, what most pet owners fail to understand is that birds are meant to be free and the sky is literally the limit for them.
Munias and parakeets are listed as endangered species under Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. Hunting or trading of Schedule II birds and animals is illegal, and anyone found guilty of engaging in the trade of these birds and animals faces a jail term of up to seven years.
Sadly, these birds continue to be captured in places like north Bengal, Bihar, and the foothills of the Himalayas from where they are transported to pet markets in cities like Kolkata via trains. To avoid being detected due to the tight vigil at Sealdah and Howrah stations, the smugglers usually unload their illegal cargo at Burdwan station from where the birds are brought to Kolkata by road.
In Kolkata, these smuggled birds are usually kept at hideouts around Galiff Street and are brought to the pet market on Sunday, the weekly market day. While domestic animals, rabbits, and ornamental fish are commonly sold in the market, birds account for almost 75 per cent of the pet trade.
Similarly, every Sunday, at the Hoga market in Kolkata, village trappers provide the local pet sellers with more than 6,000 captured birds. The next morning, the sellers offer these birds at other markets in and around Kolkata, including Hati Bagan which is another booming bird-trading location.
Methods Used to Trap Wild Birds
Fledgling birds are often captured from their nests, while adult birds are caught in traps or nets. Trappers generally use “mist nets” and “clap nets” to catch unwitting birds that fly straight into them. As the trapped birds struggle to break free, most of them end up dead or with serious injuries.
Mist nets – Made of light weight nylon threads the net is hung on two poles or two tree branches. Because of the fine weaving it is practically invisible and birds easily get trapped.
Clap nets – Made of nylon weaving with an additional clap that can be used to close the net instantly by pulling a string and trapping the birds.
Slip Noose – Trappers also use a method that involves attaching a slip noose to a cow’s back and tail. As the cow swishes her tail, the noose opens and closes. On a typical day, at least two birds get caught in the slip noose. This crude method often results in broken legs or other injuries in the captured birds.
Lime stick – By far the most barbaric, trappers use at least three variations of the “lime stick” method. A highly sticky substance made from peepal tree sap and slaked lime is applied to extension poles which are then used along with insect baits and bird decoys to probe high branches and the insides of domes. Birds which come in contact with the lime on these sticks get stuck to it and are subsequently captured.
Eight of the 12 native species of parrots found in India regularly turn up in the illegal pet trade. These are:
- Himalayan Parakeets,
- Finsch’s Parakeets,
- and Vernal Hanging-parrot.
This can stop when you stop keeping birds as pets. If you really want to shower your love on these beautiful species, let them live a life that is free from cages. Visit forests, keep feeds and grains, plant trees, place home-made nests in your home to encourage the free birds to visit. It is when people stop buying that the trade of illegal poaching of birds can be put to an end.
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