29 parakeets being smuggled from Chennai to Mysuru were intercepted and confiscated from smugglers by the Bangalore City police recently. Among these 17 are baby parakeets that were forced out of their nests by poachers depriving them of their habitat and parental care. These birds are now in the care of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) which is taking pains to nurse the babies back to health before rehabilitating them in the wild.
The smuggled parakeets include 23 Alexandrine parakeets (Psittacula eupatria) and 6rose-ringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri). Poachers not only took chicks off their nest, but also took adult parakeets to meet the deman of the ever growing pet industry.
“Parakeets occupy a big slot in the illegal bird pet trade. The reason could be their smartness and capabilities which include their ability to talk and quick socialising behaviour,” said Jai Shankar V, an ornithologist.
“They are trained to perform tricks and also illegally used by astrologers to foretell the future (tarot cards). There are also superstitions that they are lucky charms. In South India, they are associated with goddesses Madurai Meenakshi. All these make them much sought after by people. Although the trade involves illegal breeding of these birds, in most cases its main source poachers lifting them from the wild to smuggle them into illegal bird pet trade.”
According to forest officials, the mutated rose-ringed parakeets which has a life span of about 30 years is sold for a price range of Rs.12000 to 25000. A normal rose-ringed parakeet fetches Rs 500 to Rs 1000. And if the demand is from international customers, the price climbs further.
Tragically, about 40 percent of the birds die in transit in this illegal trade as they are transported in unsuitable conditions such as in trucks and containers often stacked in crates.
After rescue operations too, caring for them is a herculean task both in terms of effort and funding.
“Some of these babies now with us are barely four-five-weeks-old. They need utmost care from doctors and our team are ensuring a round-the-clock care. They have to be hand-fed for at least eight weeks. The costs on the birdfeed – Kaytee Exact – hand-feeding formula for baby birds, which is an imported one, is a big challenge before us. They take a long time to mature and fly by themselves. It’s an ardent task for our staff for at least five to six months,” informed WRRC president Suparna Baksi.
Watch Video Of the Rescued Parakeets
It is believed that there is a huge nexus involving a number of middlemen in this illegal trade. The chicks are extracted from their nests and brought to the city, trained in pet shops and sold for a huge price.Baby parakeets are sometimes blinded and let out in the wild to trap adult parakeets by their cries.
They are sold to astrologers/ tarot card readers who use them in their trade of picking fortune cards to foretell future of customers.
Hunting or trade of these birds is a crime as the species is protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act Schedule IV. If proved guilty the offenders may be sent to prison for a term of six months to three years and a fine levied.
The officials at WRRC are appealing to the public through newspapers and social media to offer their support to protect and help rehabilitate these parakeets.
“Our appeal to the public is to generously come forward, as they did the last time, and help us get these birds back into their natural and safe habitat. The public should be very alert about illegal trade which is happening in our city and these birds are also sold over the internet. They have to partner with us in our initiative to protect the wildlife,” Suparna Baksi Ganguly, president, WRRC.
India is home to about 13 parakeet and lorikeet species.
They play an important role in the ecosystem in seed dispersion. A single parakeet in the wild in its lifetime disperses at least 5000 seeds which germinate and grow into plants/trees.
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