Illegal trade in endangered birds flourishes in Delhi (With Images)

February 19th, 2009 - 10:50 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) Hundreds of colourful parakeets, pretty canaries, menacing falcons and other endangered birds can be found in the national capital - not in zoos or forested areas but in the cages of illegal bird sellers who openly flout laws to make a quick buck.

“If there is demand, there will be supply. Several ministers and big people come here to buy these birds. This keeps us going despite seizures and prohibitory laws,” a bird seller near Jama Masjid told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Jama Masjid in Old Delhi is just one of the several places in and around the capital where laws are flouted to sell endangered birds. Behind the Red Fort, at INA Market, Moolchand crossing, Minto Road and Noida’s Sector 18 market, many vendors flaunt the birds without fear.

“I have broken several cameras. If you want the same thing to happen to you then go ahead and take pictures,” threatened a bird seller in Noida’s Atta Market but didn’t attempt to hide his illegal wares, which included the rare macquacaca.

“The root cause of this business flourishing is that the wildlife inspectors who seize the endangered birds show only the less important birds in court, allowing the illegal sellers to be let off after a meagre fine of Rs.100,” said Ashok Kumar, a trustee of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).

The illegal vendors usually sell each parakeet for Rs.40-50, but those wanting talking birds have to shell out Rs.500. A falcon can cost as much as Rs.20,000 depending upon the breed, while owls are priced only marginally lower. The pretty hill mynahs are sold for about Rs.2,500.

According to Kumar, endangered birds worth hundreds of thousands of rupees are smuggled into Delhi every day from Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

“On any given day, around 50,000 birds are brought here - mostly parakeets, mynahs, munias, bulbuls, koels, hill mynahs, canaries and eagles,” he said.

“The rose-ringed parakeet, which is a talking species, is much in demand. Then come other parakeet varieties like Alexandrian and red-breasted species. The black-headed munia and finches are also widely traded,” Kumar added.

Some birds are kept as status symbols since they are very expensive and exotic. However, many are also bought for religious, superstitious and medicinal reasons. The claws and feathers of birds like great-horned owls, pariah kites and even bats are used by those who believe in sorcery.

Kumar feels that the present laws are inadequate to prevent trade in endangered birds. According to him, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) need to be strengthened to ensure that the lovely winged creatures do not become extinct and are free to fly.

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