Poaching, illness killing peacocks near Delhi
Poaching and a mysterious disease are killing peacocks, India's national bird, in one of their richest habitats here in Uttar Pradesh.
The Bisrakh area in Greater Noida, near Delhi, is home to a huge peacock population.
But as many as 30 of the birds have died in the last fortnight in Patwadi village, according to locals. Of these, 10 died within a week.
On July 6, the Uttar Pradesh forest department rescued five peacocks which had fallen ill in the village in Greater Noida. One of the birds died while in the department's custody.
The five peacocks were meant to be shifted to a veterinary hospital but were reportedly confined inside a nursery in Dadri. The nursery lacked the basic facilities and veterinary care.
According to official sources, District Magistrate M.K.S. Sundaram called an urgent meeting July 7 to discuss the rising peacock deaths.
He asked the forest department to send the sick peacocks to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) at Bareilly.
Jitendra Agarwal, a villager, alleged that the wildlife department did not make efforts to send the birds to Bareilly until one of them died.
"The blood samples were also not taken to identify the exact cause of the deaths although we kept requesting them," he said.
Divisional Forest Officer B. Prabhakar said: "The peacocks seem to be suffering from Newcastle disease in which they suffer a nervous breakdown, showing paralytic symptoms.
"We are treating them and they are doing fine," he said.
According to Agarwal, the peacocks have been dying due to unknown reasons.
The peacocks first twist their neck and then get blinded, eventually leading to their death.
"We buried all the dead peacocks. In fact the number of deaths could be much higher in the periphery of the villages which may have gone unnoticed," he said.
Added another villager, Rakesh Yadav: "We are not sure about the reason for their death. Were they poisoned or are they victims of some serious disease?"
Patwadi and Bisrakh villages - a part of Noida Extension -- and the nearby villages of Haibatpur, Milak, Roja Jalalpur, Khairpur, Vaidpura and Sadullapur are a peacock habitat in western Uttar Pradesh.
However, large-scale constructions by private builders have wreaked havoc on the national bird's habitat.
Besides, massive poaching by construction workers have reportedly become a major cause of peacock killings.
More than 25 deaths were reported from Vaidpura and Sadullapur alone last year. Over 15 birds died in Khairpur and Jalalpur although the forest department does not have any official figures.
The poachers place poisonous grain balls below the shady trees to lure the unsuspecting peacocks. When they die, the poachers cook and eat them.
(S.P. Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)