Millennium Post

Cash for wings

Agencies grappling with the ‘bird smuggling’ menace is nothing new, but what came as a concern for them is dealing with the foreign countries in sharing information of the ‘unchallenged’ poachers actively involved in this illegal trade.

Investigation revealed that the network of bird smuggling is mainly spread across the north eastern region and some parts of Mumbai (Crawford Market), Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands among others.

It is unfortunate that despite the Wildlife Protection Act, which bans the trade and trapping of all indigenous birds and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which restricts the trade of foreign birds, more than 1,200 bird species thrive openly in the Indian market.

In January itself a poacher identified as Ajim Khan was arrested in Nepal for his involvement in this illegal trade. He was arrested while illegally transporting 26 pheasants to India for sale. He claimed that each bird is sold at Rs 5,000 in the Indian markets.

Interestingly, some of the birds seized from him were golden pheasant, Reeves’s pheasants and Lady Ams pheasant which are only found in China and in Myanmar. He claimed to be linked with poachers in China and Myanmar.

Speaking to the Millennium Post over telephone a senior STF officer in Uttar Pradesh, PK Mishra, an expert in dealing with the bird smuggling cases in India, said, ‘The main problem in dealing with such cases is that neighbouring countries don’t participate in the information sharing about the international and domestic poachers. This is one of the main reasons behind the low conviction rate in such cases.’

He said that already a massive operation against three international endangered bird’s smugglers for their network in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Dubai has been launched. ‘Every year more than tens of thousands of birds are exported from India to our neighbouring countries,’ he added. ‘The smugglers have been identified as Mohammed Qadir, Mohammad Zahid and Bechu,’ Mishra said.

Investigation revealed that the trio runs the biggest endangered birds smuggling racket in India and shockingly they smuggle out these birds to China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Dubai through flights and ships.

The startling revelation was made with the arrest of two of their associates Haji Mohammad Farid last year in Uttar Pradesh. They revealed that Kolkata and Mumbai are the hub of international endangered birds smuggling. A large number of endangered birds were recovered from them and is was also found that they have associates in Bihar, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Andaman and Nicobar Islands etc.

It was found that the trio is the biggest illegal trader of Demoiselle Crane, Scaly-breasted Munia or Spotted Munia, Golden Pheasant or Chinese Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, Eagle, Lady Amherst's Pheasant and Jacobian popularly known Naqabposh to international countries.

They run the syndicate with the help of airport and port officials in Gujarat, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai to smuggle these birds out of the country and take them to China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Dubai. The arrested duo in Kolkata claimed that Zahid and his associates are running this racket from Kolkata and Mumbai for the last eight years and the total illegal trade (bird smuggling) is worth Rs 1.5 crore (approx) annually.

Wildlife activists Naresh Kadyan said, ‘The illegal trade could be curtailed only through awareness and strict vigilance. The people have to stop buying these birds who love to fly rather than die in cages. It is unfortunate that the laws designed to protect India’s birds are well intentioned but rarely enforced.’
It was learnt that one of the largest illegal trades in animals takes place at Mumbai’s Crawford Market. The menace was so grave that the Bombay High Court intervened and ordered a committee in 1997 to conduct raids at the market. However, the committee is no longer active, so the illegal activities of the animal dealers at the Crawford Market are growing every day.

In Kolkata’s Gallif Street, every Sunday more than 10,000 endangered species are put on sale with no one to challenge these poachers. ‘The society has to take initiative in saving these birds. Please say no to bird’s sellers,’ Kadyan said.

‘The most worrying factor is everyday thousands of birds die while they are being illegally trapped and transported from the bird-rich hills and forests of the northeast, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They were packed in cramped boxes and transported through trains, flights and ships only to be left to die out of pain and hunger,’ Debasish Chakraborty, another wildlife activists said. Ornithologists claimed that bird trading creates a bad ecological impact because it plays an important role in maintaining natural balance. ‘It is a matter that should be dealt with strictly by the concerned Union ministry as their dwindling numbers can cause an impact on Indian forests. Usually birds spread seeds in order to thrive and help in forestation. Out of 400 species of birds which are traded, 20 are among the world’s most highly endangered, 36 are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and six are included on the Red Data list of endangered species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources,’ Chakraborty said. ‘These birds are like us. They also cry, grieve and even die due to depression. I would like to request everybody that please don’t encourage these poachers by buying these lovely creature of god and report to the police if they come across the miscreants involved in the trade,’ he said.
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