Hunting of wetland birds, including migratory species, is rampant in many parts of the State. The ‘kole’ wetlands in Thrissur and Vembanad Lake, extending up to Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts, are known to be a favourite hunting spot of poachers. The birds often killed are egrets, herons and spoonbills.
Four painted storks, a near-threatened species, were recently found killed in the area between Mannar and Haripad, said B. Sreekumar, president of the Kottayam Nature Society.
Bird hunting has been reported from areas around Haripad, Vechoor, Kallara and Perumthuruthu. Until recently, Vechoor was one of the centres of organised poaching. Some poachers have shifted out of the area following increased public vigil, Dr. Sreekumar said.
In Alappuzha district, which has large tracts of wetlands, including paddy fields, 540 persons hold licensed guns. Of this, 178 own long-barrelled guns. Besides, there are a large number of people who own air guns for which licence is not required. It is mostly air guns and the long-barrelled ones that are used for hunting, the officials said.
Wildlife Act offence
Hunting of birds is an offence under the Indian Wildlife Act. It entails imprisonment up to seven years. The Act has accorded protection to 474 species, including nearly 100 wetland varieties found in Kerala. Birds such as eagle, Great Indian hornbill, vultures, osprey, peafowl and hill mainah are included in Schedule 1 of the Act along with tigers and elephants. Yet, most incidents go unreported and the law enforcement agencies, including the police, rarely act against such offences, said conservationists.
The Forest Department has registered only a few cases of hunting of birds during the last five years. The samples collected in wildlife cases from the State are sent to the wildlife forensic unit of Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) for DNA analysis. “The Forest Department has sent four samples of birds killed since 2005,” said P.O. Nameer, Head of the wildlife division of KAU.
Officials of the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) of Kerala Police confirmed that no cases for hunting of birds were reported from the State. “If any case is registered, the Bureau would get the information. The police have not registered any case of poaching of birds,” V.K. Girijanathan Nair, Superintendent of Police, SCRB said.
The Social Forestry wing of the Forest Department, Alappuzha, held a seminar on the issue on January 15 at its office. The attempt is to create awareness on the conservation and the legal aspects of the issue, said Raju Francis, assistant conservator of forests.