Peacocks in danger. Know why?

Isn’t this national bird facing danger signals? Who shall answer the question concerning Indian peacock?

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Do you know that Peacock is in danger? Poaching, poisoning and feather-sale are main threats Basically, the world has three species of peafowl: 1. Congo peafowl, which is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. 2. Burmese peafowl which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2009 and it is the national bird of Myanmar.  3. Indian peacock which is country’s national bird.

Isn’t this national bird facing danger signals? Who shall answer the question concerning Indian peacock? The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) which has listed the national bird on Schedule1 of India’s Wildlife Protection Act which means the species is receiving the highest attention and those harming or poaching it are liable to punishment with monetary fine as well.

Forest officials in all states are responsible to ensure the Act is implemented in letter and spirit. Yet all seems not well with this beautiful large plumed bird having ancient association with Lord Krishna.

The Indian Biodiversity Conservation Society (IBCS) based at Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, has attempted in its own voluntary way delivering answers to this effect. It took the initiative to organize First World Peacock Day on 15th November 2022. Dr .Akhilesh Kumar, Secretary, IBCS, and Aman Singh, Core Committee member, IBCS, turned out to be pillars of this unique initiative. Dr. Sonika Kushwaha, a zoologist, is its President.

Peacocks enter class-room sessions. Dr. Sonika is on extreme right in last row, courtesy

The celebration received support from Tourism & Wildlife Society of India, IRE-Jungle- Narsinghgarh (Madhya Pradesh), Manav Organization (Lalitpur-Uttar Pradesh), Wild-CER (Nagpur-Maharashtra) and World Pheasant Association, United Kingdom. A number of other organizations and educational institutions encouraged this initiative. More than 60 nature lovers from various NGOs, Schools, Colleges, Universities, Forest Department and individuals signed with the IBCS. They represented 14 States of India. They lamented that the bird was declared National Bird of India in 1963. It, however, continues to face difficult time for 59 years facing lack of seriousness for its appropriate conservation and protection. The celebration conveyed the message — it is time to care for India’s National Bird.

Sonika and her colleagues compiled almost all news items published in the Indian dailies and magazines about Peacock’s mortality and tried to reason the causes. Not much data was available with forest authorities. They summed up: poached 279+ ; poisoned deliberately 241; pesticide consumption 107, total 627+ peacock mortalities across India within past few years. Their inquiries revealed that tonnes of Peacock feathers were collected, after being poached, and were traded all over the country, some stock going abroad.

Their finds revealed that Peacock feathers are used in making fans, fancy peafowl dolls, ear-rings, etc. The feathers are sold at high rates in foreign countries. The feathers are also used in some Ayurvedic medicines, which is another reason for rise in poaching.

Sonika stated that a study conducted by TRAFFIC India, an arm of WWF-India, revealed that Tamil Nadu is the third major source of peacock plumes in the country after Rajasthan and Gujarat. Data collected from 20 states over two years by a TRAFFIC team reveals that an aggregate of 25.71 crore bunches of feathers were found in godowns in Rajasthan, 3 crore in Gujarat and 2 lakh in Tamil Nadu. Agra and Rajasthan are the major suppliers of peacock feathers to Tamil Nadu and West Bengal while Odisha is the biggest buyer of such feathers

A study in 2016 undertaken by TRAFFIC India stated peacock feather ash (bhasma and churan) was sold in many drug stores in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat in the belief that it cures hiccups, vomiting and morning sickness. “Naturally shed feathers are simply not enough to meet the demand and peacocks are being poached for the same. A single peacock normally sheds or molts 150-200 feathers annually. It is unlikely that people catch wild peacocks, pull out their feathers, and let them go.

Moreover, whether shed or plucked from dead peacocks is anyone’s guess,” says the TRAFFIC report. According to Sonika’s estimates, the Central Bureau of Investigation had booked a Delhi-based company and its director for allegedly smuggling peacock tail feathers to a China- based entity. Several consignments of feathers were sent via 26 shipping bills. The racket was unearthed when the Customs authorities seized a consignment containing about 21 lakh pieces of peacock tail feathers at the Inland Container Depot in Delhi’s Tughlakabad.

It had been booked by Galaxy Rider through two shipping bills dated February 26, 2021. The company’s director was identified as Ayaz Ahmed, a resident of north-east Delhi. The consignment, booked through Logistic Curator India Private Limited, consisted of 77 packages weighing about 2,565 kg, with an estimated value of about ₹5.25 core. The accused had declared the contents as “plastic flexible pipes”. As it turned out, Logistic Curator India had authorised a man named Amit Mishra for filing the export/import shipping bills and on its behalf, he had handled the consignment in question. Further investigation revealed that the accused had earlier shipped several consignments of peacock tail feathers to the entity in China following the same modus operandi. The First Information Report alleged that the seized feathers had been plucked by way of poaching peacocks and that its smuggling was part of a huge criminal network.

Harsh Vardhan

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