Poachers using children to hunt birds in Orissa’s Chilika Lake

December 14th, 2008 - 2:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Balugaon (Orissa), Dec 14 (IANS) Poachers are using children to hunt birds in Orissa’s Chilika lake — India’s largest brackish water lagoon — after authorities increased their surveillance in the area, officials and conservationists say.Officials said they are concerned because poachers are adopting new methods to hunt birds and now engaging children between 12 to 17 years old for the purpose.

“The poachers are now using children to avoid arrest. They think we will not suspect children,” assistant conservator of forest (wild life) B.K. Mohapatra told IANS Friday.

The state government this year has set up at least 16 anti poaching camps in the area and deployed more than a hundred people, including officials and volunteers, to nab all those involved in poaching in Chilika Lake.

The people deployed include about 40 former poachers. “They have given up poaching and are now helping us to protect birds. We are paying them some remuneration,” Mohapatra said.

Like professional poachers, the children are also trained to catch the birds by laying out nets and spreading poisoned baits, officials said. Some poachers are using children only to carry the birds away after killing them.

Tulu Parida, 13, was Monday arrested on the charge of poaching birds in the lake. He was caught with six dead birds. Forest officials say they are searching for two other minor boys who helped him in the crime.

“This is a new tactic (use of children) adopted by poachers which needs to be tackled. It is really a matter of concern for us,” Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa said.

A few years ago, five minors were arrested for poaching birds in Chilika. The children killed the birds by spreading poisoned grain for the birds.

Every year, nearly a million birds from the Himalayas and beyond, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan visit Chilika, some 100 km from Bhubaneswar, in winter.

At least 97 species of migratory intercontinental waterfowl visit the lake from October to mid-March to escape the biting cold in their usual habitat.

However, hundreds of them get killed by poachers hailing from dozens of villages around the lake.

The poachers usually catch the birds by trapping them in nets or spreading poisoned bait. They also smuggle out these protected species to cities.

At least 600,000 birds have already reached the lake this year, since the first arrivals in the last week of October.

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