Wildlife & Biodiversity

Bihar forest department recovers 155 skinned migratory birds from poacher

The man used to supply meat of migratory birds to various parts of north Bihar

By C K Manoj
Published: Monday 25 January 2021
Migratory birds in the Nagi-Nakti Sanctuary in Jamui district of Bihar. Photo: CK Manoj

This story has been corrected to remove references to the now-extinct pink-headed duck and to fix typo in the name of the species red-crested pochard

The Bihar forest department claimed to have arrested a notorious poacher with 155 skinned migratory birds in East Champaran district January 24, 2021. The man was arrested from near the famous Sarottar lake in the district that is known as a ‘migratory birds paradise’.

The department had been alerted by locals to reports that the poacher along with hunters in the area was trapping migratory birds and selling them at a high price to bush meat lovers and hotels.

“One of our team members acted as a decoy and contacted the poacher, posing as a buyer and won his confidence,” East Chamaparan’s Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Prabhakar Jha told this reporter January 25.

“Early January 24, the poacher called up our colleague to a particular place to deliver the consignment. Our team in civilian clothes nabbed him red-handed with the meat of 155 de-skinned dead birds,” Jha added.

The poacher has been booked under Sections 49 B, 52 and 55 of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972.

The poacher told forest officials that he was involved in the trade for over a decade and had been selling various species of migratory birds at exorbitant rates, beyond the reach of commoners.   

“He told us he would charge Rs 8,000 for selling a single piece of red-crested pochard,” the DFO said.

Officials said the poacher’s network of as many as 100 people, was spread over various districts of north Bihar including West Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Samastipur, Sheohar and Sitamarhi.

“Even while he was in our custory, he got a call on his cell phone from Sitamarhi. The caller enquired about the price of Siberian and other migratory birds,” the DFO said.

The department has launched a massive drive to check poaching, hunting and killing of birds in the area. “We have engaged various teams for patrolling the lake by using boats and also deployed them along the banks to protect the birds,” the DFO said.

The teams also have been bursting crackers at five-six entry points to the lake spread over an area of six kilometres during evening hours to make the birds fly, in a bid to save them from poachers.

Various species of migratory birds such as Siberian cranes, common teal, open-billed stork, tufled duck, black-tailed godwit, pintails, spoonbill and white-necked storks visit the lake every year, experts said. They reach the place after November and breed in the warmer environment.

Raising awareness

Environmentalists are alarmed at the continued poaching and killing of migratory birds despite efforts by the state government to create awareness about them.

“The poaching of birds is indeed a matter of concern for us. But this is not being done openly now. It goes on stealthily,” environmentalist and state coordinator of Indian Birds Conservation Network Arvind Mishra said.

One of the main reasons why poaching continued to take place was that forest department staff were not equipped with arms and hence, on some occasions, they refused to act against poachers out of fear of being attacked, Mishra said.

According to him, two-thirds of north Bihar was wetlands that attracted a huge number of migratory birds every year. “There is an urgent need to involve locals and sensitise them to protect the birds,” Mishra said. The number of migratory birds visiting Bihar could be around 25-30 lakh, he added.

The state government had, of late, launched initiatives to create awareness among locals about the birds and held as many as two festivals in the past two months.

A three-day festival was recently organised at the famous Nagi-Nakti bird sanctuary in Jamui district, some 200 kilometres south of Patna, January 15 to create awareness about migratory birds.

“This sanctuary is a big habitat for different species of birds. Experts say many of the migratory birds fly 13 days to arrive at such sanctuaries during winter and keep retuning every year if they like the place,” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said while inaugurating the event.

He also announced his intention to hold the festival every year. 

In December 2020, the state organised another bird festival in Bhagalpur district with the same objective. The festival was jointly organised by the Bhagalpur forest division, Bombay Natural History Society and Mandar Nature Club.

Forest officials and environmentalists said the selection of Bhagalpur for the bird festival held significance given the fact that the 60-km stretch of the Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary between Sultanganj and Kahalgaon was a hub of migratory birds.

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