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Heat kills peacocks, alarms forest dept

Already hit by poaching and use of insecticides in fields, India’s national bird - the peacock - is feeling the heat this summer, quite literally.
Hindustan Times | By Darpan Singh, Lucknow
UPDATED ON MAY 25, 2010 08:40 PM IST

Already hit by poaching and use of insecticides in fields, India’s national bird - the peacock - is feeling the heat this summer, quite literally.

Several deaths, caused by severe heatwave conditions, have alarmed the state forest department. BK Patnaik, UP’s chief principal conservator of forests (wildlife), said the department had taken the matter seriously.

He told HT on Monday, “We have told the district magistrates in the affected areas to swing into action. District officials are, in turn, using the tehsil diwas forum to urge villagers to ensure water bodies are not dried up. This will help the protected bird survive the hostile weather.”

On Sunday, a dozen peacocks were found dead at Bakewar in Etawah. A few days prior, similar deaths were reported from Kannauj. More such reports are pouring in from other parts of the state. Though Patnaik confirmed only four deaths, he did admit, “Post mortem reports have attributed the deaths to heatstroke and excessive loss of water.” He also admitted the weather was more hostile this summer compared to previous years.

Many parts of the state have touched maximum temperature of 45 degrees Celsius this summer. Wildbird Protection Society secretary Neeraj Srivastava said, “Because of the heat, lakes and other water bodies have been reduced to parched land, making sunburns and dehydration common in such birds.”

There’s another problem. “Unlike tigers, there is no exact figure on the number of peacocks India has. This hampers the conservation efforts. There is also a huge shortage of experts and doctors, who can treat heat-hit birds,” said Jaswant Singh, a wildlife expert. The peacock is protected under Section 51, 1-A of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Even though the cause of deaths is understood to be heatwave, the forest department is not taking any chances. “The viscera of the peacocks, found dead in Kannauj, was sent to Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly. An FIR has been lodged under the Wildlife Act to investigate the cause of death,” said B D Rao, Divisional Forest Officer of Kannauj.

Easy prey

While illegal poaching of the bird continues for their feathers, some tribes kill the bird for its meat. Peacocks in Uttar Pradesh have been facing a major challenge to their lives from many village farmers who spray excessive pesticides in their fields. The birds often consume the same searching for insect in the fields.

Killer facts

On Sunday a dozen peacocks were reportedly found dead in Bakewar, Etawah A few days prior, four peacocks were found dead in the Nagla Madara area of Kannauj district.

In 2008, there was an alarm when 25 peacocks were found dead in Bulandshahar. Close on the heels, seven peacocks had been found dead in two neighbouring agricultural farms near Bakewar village of Etawah.

The same year, the recovery of the carcasses of two peacocks in Konch town of Jalaun district threw state forest officials in a tizzy.

In Muzaffarnagar, nearly a score of peacocks, while feeding on insects, consumed poisonous substance spread in the fields the same year.

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