Nalsarovar Bird sanctuary in Gujarat, an ideal winter ground for migratory birds has turned into a favourite spot for poachers trying to capture birds and small animals in and around the sanctuary. Recently, six poachers were arrested in the vicinity of the sanctuary with six live monitor lizards, a cobra and a turtle recovered from them. This is the second such incident where poachers have been caught red handed; the previous one being in April.
Forest officials blame the rise in such activities to acute shortage of permanent staff and say they are aware of birds and reptiles being poached recklessly outside the sanctuary area and also by some of the locals. They add that snakes were often killed for their venom and monitor lizards for their meat.
Superstition at work
It is believed that the oily extract of reptile carcasses has curative powers in treating arthritic pains. The meat of monitor lizards is also purported to have aphrodisiacal powers and it is these superstitious beliefs among the locals that has increased poaching activities in the area.
Regrettably, the chief offenders behind the poaching are yet to be caught.
“It has been noted many times that those arrested are just a front for people from nearby villages who are actually behind those responsible. They never get caught,” said a forest official.
A senior forest official also notes that the area is home to communities who are into poaching for generations.
That the men are merciless killers and experienced in handling animals is evident from the way they have butchered the birds and animals. Some migratory birds recovered from their possession in April had their wings cut and legs broken. In this recent incident, the tails of the lizards were cut and legs twisted so that the animal could not escape.
Monitor lizards are an endangered species and have been declared a Schedule 2 protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Persons found hunting, trading or buying these animals face a fine of up to Rs.25,000 and could be imprisoned for up to seven and a half years, depending on the number of offences
The men could be nabbed this time because of a smart tip off but the forest officials say there is acute shortage of ground staff making it hard for them to keep a check on the activities in and around the sanctuary. Temporary staffs are employed only when there are migratory birds visit the lake.
Following the April poaching incident, a decision was taken to provide additional staff and install closed circuit cameras at several sensitive points. But the delay in those decisions translating into action has resulted in poachers trying to take advantage of the situation.
More About Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary is a spectacular natural lake with shallow waters and muddy lagoons, dotted by 360 islets. It offers an ideal wintering ground for thousands of migratory birds. These birds travel tiring lengths from Central Asia, Europe and Siberia to escape from severe cold of harsh winter there. In addition to migratory birds, many resident as well as local migratory birds also visit this place. This lake and the wetlands around it were declared a bird sanctuary in April’ 1969.
A very significant conservation value of Nalsarovar lies in its large congregation of important birds such as Grey-lag geese, Open-bill stork, Glossy ibis, Coots, Cranes etc. It is also noteworthy that of the three species of pelicans in India, two species viz. Rosy and Dalmatian pelicans are found here.
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Image of captured monitor lizard courtesy The Hindu
Image of Nalsarovar courtesy TripAdvisor