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Hunting poses threat to birds in Barpeta beels
Correspondent
 BARPETA, Dec 6 – One of the most sought-after destinations of migratory birds in the eastern part of Barpeta district has come under threat. Siltation of wetland, depletion of shelter and food, pollution of water and legal and illegal construction of man-made structures have already shrunk the habitat of birds – both resident and migratory. The beels in the area are the roosting place of birds all through the year. Migratory birds visit the area every winter. But unabated hunting is going to spell doom for bird migration.

Local people living close to the Shara Beel near Byaskuchi under the Sarthebari Revenue Circle said that large-scale hunting of birds has led to the depletion of a number of avian species. Some birds, which were seen earlier, have not been sighted this year. The local people suspect that some species have become extinct due to extensive hunting.

It is alleged that hunted birds are illegally sold in the market at high prices. A bird weighing around one kg fetches Rs 400 to Rs 500. A hunter earns Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 on a single night.

The situation in the other beels of the area is no different from that in the Shara Beel. At the Kapala Beel, hunters sound bell metal utensils while catching birds. The sound is used to attract birds. Some hunters use nets, while some others use sharp weapons.

Almost all the beels in the area like Kapla, Barkana, Salmara and Hablakhowa are the natural habitat of local species of birds. In winter, they are accompanied by large flocks of avian guests. This adds to the attraction of the area and also becomes a source of ornithological studies. With vast areas of deep water and abundant food, birds roost in large numbers, thereby becoming the easy target of hunters.

The beels are leased out for fishing by the Assam Fisheries Development Corporation for certain years. The lessees or their employees move around the fisheries even at night, fearing illegal fishing. So it is evident that they are aware of the killing of birds. But barring one or two, no lessee or any of his employees has ever tried to prevent bird hunting. This creates the suspicion that they may also have some “understanding” with the hunters.

There is no office of the Forest or Wildlife Department in the vicinity of the fisheries. The local administration and the police have not paid any major attention to the cause of protection of birds. No organised group in the area has raised its voice against such activities. As a result, the protection of avian creatures in the vast area seems to be nobody’s business as of now.

Conscious people are afraid to protest as most hunting takes place under the cover of darkness. They also fear personal harm if such activities are prevented. The people of the area have been demanding notified fisheries under forest and wildlife coverage. But the respective departments of the Government have not taken any positive steps in this regard.

It is hoped that the Forest Department will soon come up with a specific plan to save the avian fauna of the area, which will not only help in restoring biodiversity, but also in making the place attractive for tourism.

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