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Lack of awareness is the primary reason for the illegal sale of indigenous birds

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TIRUCHI: Notwithstanding the ban on trading in live, indigenous birds in India, enforced under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the practice is prevalent in certain locations in Tiruchi city, say activists.

The focus on wildlife protection is on “mega species” like tigers and elephants because of which small birds are ignored, said Q. Ashoka Chakkaravarthy, Conservation Field Biologist. “Illegal trade in Parakeets and Munia species is more visible. Parakeets are caught using nets and bird-lime. Of the 12 native species of parakeets, eight are regularly found in markets,” Mr. Chakkaravarthy said adding that Munias are preferred cage birds due their small size. A large number of munia birds could to be kept in a small cage and they only feed on grains, while Parakeets can live up to 20 years in captivity, And, since they are affordable, the trade is flourishing, he said.

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Lack of awareness of the ban is the primary reason for the illegal sale of these species, said K Balakrishnan, an avid birdwatcher and founder of Arivom Arivippom, a group which teaches bird watching among other skills. “Most often, these sellers are just looking to make a quick buck. Young boys will catch some parakeets and sell it in the market for Rs 100-200. Awareness programmes and announcements on the ban should be broad-based among the people in the first place,” he said.

People usually do not know what to do when they spot such sales, said Mr. Balakrishnan. “Foreign birds like cockatoos or love birds are sold in pet shops. Those are not illegal. However, sale of the indigenous birds like owls and parakeets is banned. When someone spots these being sold, they must inform the authorities. The fact that the forest department, or even that the police can be alerted should be made known to the public.”

“Kili josiars (parrot astrologers) are also not allowed to have parakeets. So, old, traditional practices which involve birds are also illegal. Many do not realise that,” said Mr. A Realton, associate professor and founder of a bird-watching club in the city. According to him, although the sale has reduced, there are some locations in the city where one can find these birds. “We will work with the police department to stop them.”

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