In Jaipur, fish dying of overeating, pigeons becoming obese

It is common for astrologers to recommend the feeding of fish, pigeons and dogs to people who approach them for good luck. But experts scoff at the idea, saying what people feed them doesn’t suit the animals.
Updated on Jun 12, 2015 07:52 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByP Srinivasan, Jaipur

Do you feed fish and pigeons to bring you good luck? Do you look for black dogs to give them biscuits?

Don’t. Animal experts say fish in Jaipur’s water bodies are dying of overeating and pigeons are becoming so obese that they can’t make long flights.

What’s more, birds fed grains causing buildings to decay because their droppings have higher acid levels. And sweets, including biscuits, are bad for a dog’s health.

It is common for astrologers to recommend the feeding of fish, pigeons and dogs to people who approach them for good luck. But experts scoff at the idea, saying what people feed them doesn’t suit the animals.

In Jaipur, Man Sagar Lake that has the Jal Mahal palace at its centre, a water body at the foot of Amber Fort and a pond in Nehru Garden on Tonk Road are points for feeding fish. People feed them small wheat flour balls on the advice of astrologers but this is causing their death due to overeating, say experts.

Wildlife expert Harsh Vardhan says, “Fish eat microorganisms and small fish. They do not require bread and wheat flour balls. We are polluting water bodies by feeding them all that.”

In almost every Indian town or city, people can be seen feeding cows on the streets in the belief that it is a ‘punya’ (good deed) which will earn them blessings. It is equally common to see people feeding birds in public spaces and fish at ponds or lakes open to the public.

People feed grains to pigeons and other birds, many of which cannot chew or gulp these grains. It gets lodged in their craw and causes them trouble.

“According to an estimate, grains worth Rs 3 lakh are sold in the city every day when these birds are omnivorous,” Harsh Vardhan points out.

At Albert Hall, a prominent landmark in Jaipur, people turn up in hordes to feed pigeons. These birds, experts say, have become so obese that they can hardly fly beyond the historical building.

“They eat, sit on the Albert Hall’s walls and window sills and cause decay by their droppings,” says Harsh Vardhan.

Honorary Animal Welfare officer Manish Saxena says it is better to put some grains on your terrace rather than feeding birds at common sites. Similarly, fish should not be given any food that is not part of their regular diet but people feed them and they overeat and die.

“We disturb their natural habitat when we offer food to birds and animals which is not their natural food. For instance, biscuits are not good for dogs – they cause skin problems for them. Give them roti and milk instead,” says Tapesh Mathur, a veterinary officer with the animal husbandry department.

Harsh Vardhan cites scriptures to put forward his point. “Our books say ‘jeevo jeevasya bhojanam’, which means one being is food for another. This maintains a balance in the ecosystem. Let’s not disturb it by feeding them.”

But Debasis Chakrabarti, founder of Compassionate Crusaders Trust, a Kolkata-based group that campaigns for animal rights, said not all animals fed by people faced health problems.

“All birds or fish don’t depend only on the food given to them by people. They also eat natural food that they procure. It is likely that food like flour balls given to fish may not be completely eaten and some of this could gather at the bottom of water bodies and pollute the water,” he said.

Besides, all dogs that are fed biscuits do not face health problems, Chakrabarti said. “There is a need for some compassion but all animals do not get enough food. There shouldn’t be any blanket call to stop feeding animals,” he added.

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