Friday, March 30, 2012

Agony of the mimic artist

Agony of the mimic artist
Times of India By Neha Lalchandani

Parrots Comprise 50% Of The Wild Bird Trade, But Most Don't Survive The Ordeal

Did you know that keeping that ubiquitous mitthu at home is illegal? Indian wildlife laws state that trading in and keeping native birds is against the law. But ironically, it is absolutely legal to keep exotic birds in captivity. India has 12 species of parrots, of which eight are regularly traded. In fact, parrots form roughly 50% of the wild bird trade in India.

Chicks are captured across the country in winter and traded between December and June; the adults are traded throughout the year. The most common species is the rose-ringed parakeet while the most preferred species for trade is the Alexandrine parrot, as it has a superior ability to mimic humans and can adapt well to captivity.

Abrar Ahmed, consultant with Traffic India, says rescuing a bird is pointless since once a chick is separated from its parents, it rarely survives. "It is important to stop trade of the bird at the grassroots level. When being transported, the chicks are force-fed and treated in absolutely inhuman ways. Some die even before reaching the market. It is essential that the trade is stopped," he says.

Since May last year, there have been at least five reported seizures of parakeets in and around Delhi. More than 1,000 birds have been rescued; but rehabilitation schemes hold no promise for their survival. Most of the birds were rescued while they were being transported in state transport buses. "It is important to treat bird trade as an inter-state and international racket. Random occasional raids are not helpful at all. These cases cannot be seen in isolation. In fact, these occasional raids have only made the entire trade go underground," says Samir Sinha of Traffic.

Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Patna, Lucknow and Kolkata are the hubs of this trade. Delhi plays two roles in the illegal bird trade: while its bird market in Chandni Chowk is an important point where people from various states come to purchase, the city is also a major stopover for birds in transit.

Ahmed says Mumbai receives a large part of the consignment as it is the hub for West Asia. "However, Gujarat is also becoming an important centre and several seizures have been carried out in Ahmedabad. Many birds are being supplied to other countries from here," he says.

The Nicobar parakeet, Long-tailed parakeet and Derby's parakeet have been listed as 'near threatened' in the International Union for Conservation of Nature list. "Parrots usually nest in tree hollows, but monoculture plantations, lopping of old trees and plantation of exotic species are depriving them of nesting spots, leading to a sharp drop in their numbers. Unless demand for the birds stops, the trade will continue unabated," Ahmed adds.

Indian wildlife laws have a shocking clause. Caging a native bird is against the law, but keeping exotic species in captivity is perfectly legal. The Alexandrine parrot is the most traded bird in India
Males have distinct thin pink, black neck ring. Found in Indian sub-continent

Distinctive maroon shoulder patch. Found in forest patches in India

Males have plum magenta hood while females have dark violet grey or blue grey hood. Found throughout India

CAN'T TAKE WING: Wildlife activists say rescuing a bird is pointless as once a chick is separated from its parents, there are remote chances of its survival

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