Peafowl deaths in Punjab linked to pesticides

Published: Friday 15 February 2008

eleven peafowl found dead in Punjab were killed by food contaminated with pesticides. Nine peahens and two peacocks died in Ladhowal forest area near Ludhiana on December 26. The state forest department had earlier suggested that bird flu--spread by migratory birds coming to the region in winter--could have killed the birds. But the union government's Department of Animal Husbandry later ruled out the possibility.

An initial analysis of the samples from the peacocks by the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal found traces of pesticides in the samples from the peacocks. "It could be the pesticide 24D sprayed on wheat sown in November," said Satnam Singh, district forest officer of Ludhiana.

Experts say this was not an isolated episode. "Every year, five or six peacocks die around this season and the cause remains unknown. The usual suspects harsh weather or poison.But there are no guidelines on how much pesticide can turn fatal and hence it is difficult to say if the death was caused just because of that," said Ashwani Sharma, a doctor with the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Science Institute, Punjab Agricultural University. He said the level of poison is increasing in fodder and water.

In Punjab, there are outbreaks of cattle poisoning every year now. "On an average, 10-12 herds of cattle grazing on fields are brought to us with cases of poisoning. Punjab's state bird, the woodpecker, and even common house sparrows are missing nowadays. All this is due to pesticide poisoning. Now, even doctors have started asking patients suffering from cough whether they wash vegetables before eating," says Sharma. In January 2007, eight peacocks had died in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, after consuming food containing pesticides. "It was malathion sprayed on barley seeds," said Rohit Singh of the Delhi-based ngo Wildlife sos.

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