Birds under threat

Nepal is becoming an important centre for illegal traffic of wild birds

Published: Monday 15 September 1997

The capital city of Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, Kathmandu, has become a hub of South Asian bird traffickers. Flourishing illegal trade and transit of birds from India and Nepal to Pakistan and other destination in the Gulf states has led to the depletion of natural biodiversity in the Himalayan kingdom.

Although Nepal covers just 0.1 per cent of the world's land area, the country claims 8.5 percent of bird species. Out of 8672 species of birds found in the world, 841 species are found in Nepal. This enormous treasure has caught the attention of bird traffickers. Lucrative markets in Pakistan and the Gulf, weak law enforcement, and corruption among the Nepalese bureaucrats has helped the illegal traffic.There are many reasons for this trade to flourish. Some buy or keep wild birds for meat, some as pets, and others for religious purposes.

Mohammed Bhori, a bird trader of Mir Sikar Tola in Patna, says: "Once you get birds into Kathmandu, you can export the birds to any destination. Bird trade can't be conducted openly in other states of India and it is sometimes impossible to export birds out of India from air or water routes."

The booming market has lured many Nepalese people into this trade. Two years ago, a single bird trader Ashmat Ullah, who managed to fool the authorities and obtain a permit to store and export birds not mentioned in the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list, had managed to export over 10,000 mynah (Hill mynah or talking mynah), munia and sparrow ( Passer domesticus ) to Pakistan, revealed a study by two journalists. The study says that an international air consignment to Karachi in June 1995 contained over Rs 900,000 worth of birds. However, the new executive of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation has refused to issue any permit to encourage bird trade from Nepal.

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