POACHING: One man’s bird is another man’s dinner or wedding delicacy! In a shocking revelation, it has been found that the state bird of Gujarat, the Greater Flamingo, and also the Lesser Flamingo, happen to be a favorite item on wedding menus in and around the Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary of Gujarat. Investigation into recent incidents of poaching has revealed that flamingoes are on high demand at mass feasts in villages in the area, and that the prices for adult flamingoes go as low as Rs 70 per kg in open markets!

Officials noted that most of the poachers in the area kill the birds only to sell their meat and rarely for trading. However, it has also come to light that a number of small-time restaurants and roadside non-vegetarian eateries along the Surendranagar-Ahmedabad state highway serve flamingo meat. The most shocking part is that unlike the villages where flamingo meat is a delicacy, most of these roadside snack stalls and restaurants market their flamingo dishes as mutton.

The trade is particularly more during the marriage season when local villagers serve dishes made from flamingo meat. However, officials have found out that the bird is also served at community feasts organized by the local villagers. They further noted that incidents of poaching went up in areas such are Ahmedabad and Surendranagar following the 2012 panchayat elections since the number of community feasts has also gone up. In fact, of the four recent incidents of poaching, three were of migratory birds and one of monitor lizards and cobras.

Poaching On The Rise

The 120 sq. km lake in Nalsarovar plays host to a variety of migratory birds every winter, many of which fly south from Central Asia, Siberia, and Europe to escape the severe cold. However, in recent years the sanctuary is proving to be a death trap for these winged visitors due to relentless poaching, especially when they start arriving at the sanctuary right after monsoon.

Moreover, activists and wildlife experts claim that considering the frequency with which bird traps are found, it is logical to conclude that poaching in the Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary has increased in the recent years. Last year alone forest officials had recovered over 1500 bird traps in the area. Sadly very little is done to look after the birds that are rescued. In fact most of these unfortunate birds are left to die. Further, it does not help the situation that only nine out of the sanctioned strength of 14 forest officials have been deployed to man the vast expanse of the sanctuary.

“The Nalsarovar is so large that it is spread over two districts in Gujarat – Surendranagar and Ahmedabad, and with such a limited number of foresters there is nothing we can do to stop the local villagers who poach with such impunity,” said a senior forest department official.

On a note of hope, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), C. N. Pandey announced that the department would soon be sending special teams to the area for surprise checks.

“We have also ordered a high-level probe into the poaching incidents. The poachers’ claim that they kill the birds for personal consumption. However, we are investigating whether they were indeed killing the flamingoes for sale of their meat,” added Pandey.

Inhuman Ways Of Killing

Death By Trap: Villagers often lay nets in areas frequently haunted by flamingoes. The villagers usually check these nets late at night, and they promptly break the wings and legs of the trapped birds to make sure that they have no way of escaping.

Forced Into A Net: Another way of trapping these birds to put up a curtain-net between two poles on the surface of the lake. If any bird is unfortunate to swoop down into the trap it eventually ends up in a dinner plate. However, most often the villagers disturb the birds resting in the vicinity of the net and force entire flocks to fly right into the trap.

Death By Club: The most inhuman form of killing by clubbing these birds to death. Villagers living close to the lake venture into the bird sanctuary at night armed with small wooden clubs. This method is most often used by individuals who kill the birds for personal consumption.

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Image courtesy Brian Gratwicke, Sankara Subramanian

About Rohit Daniel

Rohit Daniel is freelance writer, photographer and an educator. He is an avid nature lover and enjoys travelling. He believes that animals have an equal right to our planet, and without wildlife this world would be an empty and meaningless piece of dirt floating in space.

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