Poison whiff in bird deaths

Jorhat, Jan. 22: The carcasses of 18 grey-legged geese suspected to have died of poisoning were recovered from Doloni Pathar (Kaliani Pathar) at Mauthgaon near Bahona Tiniali today.

An employee of the Jorhat range office, N.I. Khan, who lives nearby, said the dead migratory birds were first spotted in the morning by Prabhat Gogoi who is known as Laden by residents, when he had gone to chase out a cow from his field.

"Gogoi first saw a few birds being pecked by crows and being circled by dogs around 8.30am. He informed me over phone and I reported the matter to the forest department. After the forest personnel arrived, we recovered the carcasses of 14 geese and later locals helped to collect four more. The birds were bleeding and were also mutilated by other animals," Khan said.

He said there have been earlier incidents where birds died after eating paddy seeds allegedly mixed with pesticide Furadone, while nesting in the fields near waterbodies. The meat was then sold off to roadside dhabas or consumed by people themselves.

P. Saikia, a resident, said some unscrupulous elements were killing birds for easy money despite knowing that poaching of birds and animals was a punishable offence under the Wildlife Protection Act.

In 2010, a large number of Brahminy duck, another migratory species, were found dead in a nearby waterbody. In 2003, Doloni Pathar hosted a bird festival (Pakhi Mahotsav) in a bid to raise awareness against the killing and eating of birds.

Jorhat forest range officer Pankaj Kolita said the carcasses would be sent to the Jorhat veterinary hospital for post-mortem but preliminary indications suggest the birds had died of poisoning.

Kolita said despite awareness programmes being held from time to time, a few persons still killed birds by poisoning or netting. "Since the bird festival was held, the incidence of killings had decreased but now we will have to take up extensive awareness programmes," he said.

Hemen Saikia, president of Socio Ecology and Health Welfare Association (SEHWA), an NGO based in the Bahona area, said the people were to blame as much as the forest department. "The Nimati beat office here is in a shambles and no one comes anymore. The whole place has been overrun by trees and shrubs," he said.

"The residents in the Bahona area have been time and again told about the value of these birds which come from distant Siberia and other places but to no avail," Saikia said.

In 2003, the bird festival had been attended by chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Jorhat MP B.K. Handique.

Handique had then proposed the contiguous area along the Brahmaputra covering Nimati and upto Jhanjimukh should be protected as a bird reserve, since innumerable species of birds made the waterbodies and sand bars their home along the river during winter and the area became a bird lovers' delight.

However, the project proposal made by the Jorhat forest division has not taken off so far.

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