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Travel News, August, 2006

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Poaching spells doom for India's
dwindling peacock population

by Pritha Roy Choudhury

      Thiruparangundrum (Tamil Nadu)/New Delhi/Agra: Increased poaching of feathers and meat is posing a threat to the peacock population in India. The only known stock taking of the peacock population in India was done by WWF India in 1991. It revealed that India was left with only 50 per cent of the total peacock population that existed at the time of Partition in 1947. "The population of peacocks reduced to around 50 percent in 1991 from what it was during Independence. This itself was alarming. Now through its programme WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is carrying out all over India, whenever we are working in field and also while talking to people we are spreading a general conservation measure. A general conservation message to the people is that why the birds, animals or plants should be conserved," said Dr. Dewakar Sharma, Species Director, World Wildlife Fund. Protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the peacock, which has been declared the National Bird of India, is gradually declining in numbers, raising environmentalist concerns. We can no longer be proud as a peacock.

     The National Bird is being pushed to the brink of extinction. Poaching, indiscriminate use of pesticides and lax laws to nab those who kill the peacocks for their feathers, have all added up to endanger the population of beautiful peacocks which at one time teemed all over the country. Zoologically named Pavo Cristatus, soaring sale and demand for peacock feathers and oil is worrying environmentalists, who fear the beautiful birds are being killed in large numbers. Bird lovers say that this special group of winged creatures should be preserved and this can be done only when the common man realises the need of their contribution for the preservation of these birds. "Previously a lot of peacocks used to be seen. They danced during the rainy season. But now they have gradually decreased. The reason is unknown. This is our National Bird and they should be preserved. The government and the people should work together for their existence," said Manoj Gupta, a bird lover. "We, the people have to work to see that their numbers increase. We should not leave everything to the government. We have to launch a drive to see that the birds are not harmed. We have to seek the help of police if needed," added Ajit Singh, another bird lover. Several cases of peacock deaths are reported from different parts of the country from time to time. Peacocks are killed for commercial purpose and medicinal value. Though trade of felled feathers is legal in India, environmentalists fear that huge demand of these feathers also leads to the poaching and subsequent killing of the birds. "The main problem is habitat destruction and peacock poaching. Peacocks are mainly killed for feathers, meat and at times for making oil.

    Peacock feather trade inside India is allowed and because of that many birds are killed. Farmers are also contributing by way of poisoning peacocks for protecting their fields. So this is another reason for a number of peacocks being decreased," said Joseph Tito, Project Director, Wildlife Society of India. While the green peacock is already believed to be extinct, the peacock may soon end up on the critically endangered list. White peacocks make up less than one percent of the world peacock population and Thiruparangundrum in Tamil Nadu is one of the few pockets in India where the rare peacock is found. Ironically, until today no census has been conducted of the peacock. Non-feasibility has been cited as the only reason. Peacock is India's National Bird and its feathers, adorned by Lord Krishna, are considered auspicious by many of his followers. The peacock is also regarded as the carrier of Lord Muruga and Kartikeya by the South Indians.
-Aug 26,  2006

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