Toxin-laced grain or mystery disease behind 45 peacock deaths in MP

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Indore
  • Updated: Jul 24, 2016 17:01 IST
More than one-and-a-half dozen peacocks were found dead in different parts of Petlawad tehsil of Jhabua district. (HT photo)

They are supposed to prance in the rains; instead it is a dance of death this monsoon.

Two interior pockets in Madhya Pradesh reported carcasses of 45 peacocks across their pastoral lands this week, adding fresh turn to a recurring cycle of tragedy to the national bird over the past decade.

While 25 peacocks perished in Ashok Nagar district on Wednesday and Thursday, more than one-and-a-half dozen such birds were found dead in Jhabua district over the last three days. The twin tragedies — in the tehsils of Shadora and Petlawad respectively—have yet again raised concerns about the plight of the bird that is protected under law.

The Wildlife Protection Act Parliament enacted in 1972 safeguards the peacock, among other creatures, from hunting.

The forest department suspects that food poisoning led to the deaths in Shadora’s Rapri village. The peacocks perished after possibly consuming grains laced with toxins that poachers typically spread to kill deer, forest department’s deputy ranger Mahesh Malhotra said.

“Their viscera samples have been sent to Gwalior and Jabalpur for forensic examination to ascertain the cause,” he added.

In Charankota village off Jhabua’s Undwakal forest region, residents blame the latest deaths on “some mysterious disease”.

“The forest department is “casual and callous” in its reaction—it may also mean more number of peacock deaths than estimated. The officials sometimes bury the peacocks in a hurry, leaving out some of the dead which we get to see,” said a villager, not wishing to be named.

They also claim having reported to authorities about “excessive use of pesticides” in farming, but say no official so far turned up.

Mayur Manch, an association working for peacock conservation, said “more than one-and-a-half dozen birds” were found dead on the outskirts of the village near Mahi Dam. Official estimates put the peacock population in Petlawad and surrounding regions at 4,000.

‘Farmers alerted the authorities, but no forest official has turned up’

“Farmers of Charankota alerted the authorities, but no forest official has turned up to take stock of situation” said Jinendra Karani, the organisation’s secretary.

Karani said Jhabua was among the top central-Indian districts in peacock population three decades ago, but two-thirds of them have perished over time.

“In the 1980s, Jhabua had more than 35,000 peacocks. They were densely found in Petlawad, Thandla and Khawasa areas. Today the figure has slipped to less than 12,000,” Karani pointed out, citing poor conservation.

The Forest department dismissed the Manch’s claim about the number of the latest deaths of peacock in Petlawad. “Only six peacocks died in the last two days,” said Divisional Forest Officer Rajesh Khare. “The reason could be consumption of pesticides-contaminated water from agriculture fields.”

He rejected hunting in the area, saying villagers are aware about importance of the national bird.

On relocation of injured birds, that affects their breeding, Khare said, “We leave peacocks after treatment at the place where they were found. Familiar location helps them return fast.”

The official said the department was planning to develop 20 conserved clusters across Jhabua district to conserve peacocks. “We have sent a proposal to the government,” he informed. “Once approved, we will start work.”

Madhya Pradesh, with the most number of peacocks in the country, has over 1,00,000 of the birds in its Chambal basin covering three districts upstate. Of them, Morena has villages where peacocks outnumber humans.

With PTI inputs

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