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Poisoned And Paraded

Poisoned And Paraded

Rivu Ghorai describes a gory strategy that farmers in West Bengal are employing to scare birds away from their fields.

Strung up on wooden posts by their legs, poisoned mynas deliver a menacing warning to other birds to steer clear of this farmer’s field. This gory tactic is gaining ground in rural Bengal. Photo: Rivu Ghorai.

Returning home from work one January evening, I unexpectedly came across a macabre scene. A farmer had killed a dozen Common Mynas, strung them up by their legs and displayed them around his field as an ominous warning to other birds. The sight brought to mind a recent newspaper article that had outlined a similar incident. A farmer had poisoned 30 odd fruit-eating birds (including orioles and barbets) that were damaging his orchards. Utterly disturbed but intrigued by this trend, I investigated further, only to find that killing and displaying birds, to thwart them from crops and orchards, is common practice in rural Bengal.

Though birds are crucial to trees and plants for the dispersal of seeds, pollination and pest control, some farmers view them as a nuisance as they can damage their crops. Over the years, numerous ingenious techniques have been devised to keep birds away from fields. The most popular way, of course, is to build a scarecrow. There are also less elaborate ways, such as placing a lightweight object on a stick so that it flutters in the wind and scares off the birds. The one aspect common to all of these, is that they are not physically harmful to our feathered friends. This latest trend though, based on the illegal slaughter of unsuspecting birds, is fast gaining ground not just in farmlands but also in fisheries.

Farmers use a number of means to catch their quarry. The simplest one is to stretch several long, thin but very strong nylon wires across the field or pond in question. These wires are so sharp that they can slice a bird’s wing or even cut its throat, but they are so thin that they are near invisible to a flying bird. The second technique is to cover the entire area or part of it with a very fine nylon net. Once again, birds can’t see these nets and get hopelessly entangled when they fly into them. They then suffer a slow and painful death due to injury and starvation, as they hang, languishing, from the trap. The third process is most commonly deployed in orchards. Farmers poison several fruits and place them in strategic locations. After that, it’s a mere waiting game. Like a nightmare version of the Snow White fairytale, the birds eat the poisoned fruit and die. The last process though, is the ugliest one. The bird is not only killed, using one or more of these brutal methods, it is also then kept on display around the fields as a warning sign to other avians. Take a pick and start your sexy girls live webcams Sort by: Languages English French Spanish Italian German Swedish Portuguese Dutch Norwegian.

Is this display effective? It might be. When a bird sees injured or dead birds in and around an area, it gets the message that this spot is a war zone and should be avoided. But the real question is, should this be done at all? Isn’t there an ethical, alternate method as effective as this? The issue requires the urgent attention of researchers and enthusiasts to come up with creative solutions that will effectively deter birds from fields and keep farmers from resorting to such macabre plans.

Author: Rivu Ghorai, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 6, December 2014.


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