Thursday, March 10, 2011

Report- Nagpur and Raipur are Major Centers of India's Illegal Owl Trade

A brown fish-owl of India

India has always been a home to the tiger and other incredible wildlife for generations. Unfortunately, many of these animals have been targets for poaching and the illegal wildlife trade for decades. Usually when it comes to investigating these horrendous crimes, the victims which top list the list include tigers and other endangered species. However, a recent report submitted by Traffic has shown that owls have now become victims. During this study, a total of twelve owls were recorded. These included three live specimens seen in Mominpura and nine in Bastar district, Chhattisgarh. According to anti-poaching squad officials, Mominpura is a big hub of India's illegal bird trade. In addition to owls, partridges, quails, and parrots are also being sold on Mominpura's streets. Yet, the squad officials have never launched a single raid.

The study further revealed that the domestic trade of owls is highly lucrative and several tribes are making a living by selling them. Director of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) Nitin Desai stated that the birds are being collected in the local Satpura forests, and big cities like Nagpur and Raipur have become major centers for the illicit activities. He further added that the owls include the famous great-horned owl of the Americas and the native brown fish-owl. Officials say that these birds fetch high prices between 80,000 rupees and three lakh rupees, and are valued by local mantriks and people involved in black magic. The study also shows that this illegal, yet lucrative business is sprouting all over India in states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

I'm extremely shocked in knowing how the owl population in India has been fluctuating as a result of this illicit business. The report issued by Traffic also included information from a nationwide study of India's illegal bird trade between 1992 and 2000. This gives an idea that the trade has been going on for a while now in the nation. In addition to that, there was also information gathered between 2001 and 2008, which showed that there are as many as 300 markets in India specializing in selling wild birds, including owls. These birds are essential to our motherland's ecosystems, as they feed on small animals such as rats and mice which are destructive to farmers' crops. Without these birds, the rodent population would keep growing steadily which would make lives miserable for farmers. But what really upsets me about this news getting to know that there is hardly any conservation program to save them. I personally feel that India should focus not just on few particular creature(s) like tigers, but rather on the wildlife as a whole. This includes every wild creature- small and large- that is native to the subcontinent. In addition to that, India should also establish rehabilitation centers for rescued animals and enforce a great deal of training for enforcement officials in order to battle various illegal activities such as poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Furthermore, I also feel that the local tribes involved in these illicit activities should be convinced to give up this way of making a living and rather collaborate with authorities in protecting the local wildlife.

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