Published: Saturday 30 November 1996

Thousands of broad-winged species of hawk known as Swainson's hawk, which make their appearance on the dry plains of Argentina every winter, may get a reprieve. Ciba-Geigy, the Switzerland-based chemical manufacturing group has agreed to recall monocrotophos, the pesticide which caused the hawks to die, from the markets surrounding the agricultural areas west of Buenos Aires, where the hawks converge during their sojourn. Farmers undertook the pesticide-spraying spree to control the burgeoning grasshopper population.

Ciba-Geigy has also agreed to buy back stocks of the pesticide from the distributors in the area. It also stated that it would encourage other pesticide-makers to take similar steps. The pact was arrived at in mid-October after consultations with American Bird Conservancy, a Washington-based advocacy group representing 56 environmental and ornithological organisations

The numbers of Swainson's hawks, currently estimated at 4,00,000, declined after it was noticed that the hawks died either directly due to aerial spraying or after eating poisoned grasshoppers. Scientists are worried that farmers will continue to use existing stocks and thus poison more hawks which are excepted to frequent Argentina this month.

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