A group of featherless newborn birds sit huddled in a corner in a blue plastic box. Right next to their box is a small cage that contains two parakeets that are barely moving.

Both the box and the cage are provided heat from a small electric bulb that is dangling above their enclosure. This is the scene at the Forest Department, which rescued these birds and is trying to resuscitate them.

“They are definitely less than a month old. They were taken from their nests inside tree hollows and stuffed into cages to be sold to people who keep them in their homes,” Agricultural Officer of the Forest Department K. Sivakumar.

These birds were being sold out of makeshift cages on the side of the road in Villianur when they were rescued and are now being rehabilitated. Unfortunately, since they have not been given proper care , most of these birds might die young, he said.

The birds were taken from the Narikuruva Colony in the area and they frequently take these birds out of their nests, as they can sell them for around Rs. 200 a pair. There are a number of people who would like to keep these birds as pets.

Not only are they endangered, but also have a high mortality rate as they are purchased from the roadside. Once the birds are taken from their nests, they are fed rice, which are usually leftovers from the previous day’s meals. Parakeets generally eat worms and maggots and so this diet would leave them undernourished. They are also not provided incubating heat that their mother would give. So, their development would be poor, Mr. Sivakumar said.

It is only because there is a large market for these birds with the common people that Narikuruvas continue to sell them. If people recognise that what they are doing is illegal and that the birds themselves would not survive for long, they would stop buying them, he said.

Parakeets come under the Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and persons found hunting, trading or buying these animals would face a fine and possible imprisonment up to seven and a half years.