The nameplate at the gate of the modest house proclaims in Hindi ‘mor rakhshak’ — peacock saviour — and it’s a badge Nayaran Singh Anjaana wears proudly.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Petlawad region, home to the largest peacock population in the state, the 45-year-old farmer has played the guardian angel for the national bird for more than 30 years now, turning into a role-model in the field of wildlife conservation.
At his house in Kardawad village on Jhabua district, around 150 km from Indore, peacocks move in and out without any fear, drink water from the several water holes he has dug and eat fodder from the designated areas he has built with government aid.
“I was only 12 when one day, some dogs attacked a few peacocks in my village. When I came to know about the incident, I brought the birds home and attended to injuries. Since that day, these birds have become my life,” said Anjaana, the father of a 14-year-old girl.
Ornithologists say that a conducive climate and terrain with high trees made the entire Petlawad tehsil an ideal home for the peacocks, the males of whose species are known for their colourful plumes.
Though hunting, killing and trading of the Indian peafowl in banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, activists say that a large number of the birds are killed every year for their feathers, which are in demand for religious and ornamental purposes.
While most of the green peacock has vanished, the blue species is also said to be fighting for survival in many parts of the country, according to experts.
Wildlife experts also say that unscrupulous traders engage in forcible plucking of peacock feathers, which often leads to a large number of deaths.
Domestic trade in peacock feather is allowed only for feathers naturally shed by the bird, which happens during the monsoons.
Anjaana said that though the peacocks are safe in and around his village from humans, the birds are often attacked by their natural enemies like jackals and dogs.
Besides, heavy use of pesticides in the agricultural fields was also leading to their deaths, he added.
At the last official count in Petlawad in 2006, the peacock population stood at nearly 10,500. Though found in other parts of the state, no census was ever undertaken in other areas, wildlife officials said.
There are more than a 1,000 peacock in and around the village which has about 350 families.
Fateh Singh Ninama, range officer of Petlawad, acknowledged Anjaana’s efforts in peacock conservation and said he has “inspired many forest officers including my seniors and me”.
Besides keeping track of the peacocks in the area, Anjaana also maintains a register about their health and conditions.
Anjaana revealed that he was now planning to set up a peacock park in his village and has sought funds for the purpose.
“I also appreciate my father’s work and joined him a few days back. Now I know how to save a peacock when it is injured. Sometimes when my father is ill, I alone do his work,” said Monika.
Ajay Gadikar, ornithologist working in Madhya Pradesh, said the government must support people like Anjaana to save the magnificent bird.