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May 8, 2015

Indian Government Urged to Focus on Illegal Trade in Endemic Bird Species

Humane Society International/India calls for better control of illegal wildlife trade this Endemic Bird Day

Humane Society International/India

  • A peacock at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, CA. In India, wildlife traders sell peacocks, India's national bird, to customers who keep the birds as pets or harvest their meat and feathers. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Birding enthusiasts across the country are gearing up to participate in the Endemic Bird Day census on 09 May 2015. However, this census will not include the innumerable amount of birds that have been pawned off by traders in sprawling bird markets across the county.

In areas such as Crawford Market in Mumbai and Murgi Chowk in Hyderabad, avian species that are endemic to India are sold off under the counter. Parakeets, munias, mynas, owls, bulbuls – species formerly seen in hordes across Indian forests, have now fallen prey to the demands of bird-keeping enthusiasts. Customers keen to have these species as pets pay top bill to traders and these markets continue to flourish with local and foreign patronage.

Hordes of small, crowded cages filled with birds that are omnipresent in urban Indian landscapes - crows and pigeons - are commonplace sights in such markets. Traders claim that people buy these birds primarily to release them; either as a mark of respect for a recently departed member of the family or as a part of religious ceremonies that call for acts of kindness to animals. Of late, demands for owls and crows for use by black magic practitioners have also soared. Traders in such markets are keen to keep their customers happy and offer to procure any bird that might meet the buyer’s fancy. But unbeknownst to buyers, these birds often suffer under inhumane conditions in crowded, suffocating cages with little food or water, and no opportunity to move freely or behave naturally as they would in the wild. Not even India’s national bird is spared. Peacocks are sold to customers who keep the birds as pets or harvest their meat and feathers; as trade in the latter continues to remain legally permissible.

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Humane Society International/India has been making concerted efforts to highlight the plight of indigenous and endemic wild species that are suffering at the hands of illegal trade.

N. G. Jayasimha, managing director, HSI/India says: “Traders are aware of the legal implications of selling these indigenous species of birds, many of which have specific protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1962. But high customer demand, insufficient monitoring by enforcement authorities and lack of awareness among the public have all contributed to this trade going largely unchecked. We call upon all state forest and police departments to take cognizance of such illegal trade and help bring back these birds to their rightful home within our nation’s forests.” 

With support and swift action from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, HSI/India is hopeful that in the near future, celebrations such as the ‘Endemic Bird Day’ and the ‘World Migratory Bird Day’ (also celebrated on 09 May 2015), shall have real cause for celebration – healthy populations of birds that have been allowed to reclaim their space in the wild. Until then, public awareness and stricter vigilance will have to act as succor for our feathery friends. 

Media Contact: C. Samyukta, csamyukta@hsi.org, 09000846677

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