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Rare birds sold openly in Kolkata markets

KOLKATA, 16 JULY: While wildlife wing officials of the Forest Department are unsure of the status of threatened wildlife species, hundreds of rare birds are being sold at a fair, currently in progress at the Ramleela Maidan in Moulali (in SNS photo).
Several makeshift stalls along the footpath sell birds either smuggled or caught from the wild in different parts of the country. Most of the birds are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and are identified as vulnerable or threatened in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list.
Be it Java Sparrow or Sun Parakeet, both listed as endangered by the IUCN, birds are sold in the fair for anything between Rs 800 and Rs 2,000. Among some of the other vulnerable birds sold there is the critically endangered Medium Tree-finch, sold for Rs 600.
Not only this, many birds were found to be coloured artificially. A bird seller showed this correspondent a splendid grass parakeet, listed as threatened by CITES, tied in a plastic bag. He also showed this correspondent four pairs of Red-headed Gouldian Finch, listed as endangered by IUCN, in a tub covered by plastic bags. He sells them for Rs 1,800 a pair.
The regional deputy director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Mr RK Samal, said: “Many exotic species are sold in the city. Many such species are listed as threatened or endangered by the CITES, but they are not yet under the purview of the Wildlife Protection Act.” He also said that most of the time, officials are unable to take any action as the law is vague and unclear.
Not only Moulali, but other bird markets such as Galiff Street bird market, Banerjeehat bird market and Boral bird market also does a brisk business in captured birds. However, Mr SB Mondal, chief wildlife warden, said that nothing could be done unless there is a complaint lodged.
In 2009-2010, the state wildlife department raided 67 markets in the city and the outskirts and seized 1,475 animals, birds, turtles and turtle shells. Many of the traders in these markets collect these animals from a market in Howrah. Even a couple of years back, the railway police force used to seize animals including snakes and birds being transported from one state to another. But no such seizures have been made recently, said Mr D Mitra, additional director general (railways).
A member of Nature Environment and Wildlife Society said that it becomes a problem when the birds caught in the wild are sold in the markets. Many exotic species of birds are bred in the city nowadays. If they are bred successfully, they can be re-introduced into the wild. “But keeping birds like Macaws and Kaktuas should be checked as their numbers are dwindling and breeding them is not easy,” he added.

Soma Basu

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