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'Weak wildlife law fuelling illegal bird trade'

Experts say traders misuse permits issued for dealing in exotic birds to sell indigenous species protected under law 
 
According to wildlife experts, the permits issued to animal traders who deal in exotic bird species such as love birds, macaws and grey parrots have boosted the illegal trade of birds in the city. They say traders are misusing these permits to sell indigenous species, which are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.


For sale: Exotic and indigenous species of birds on sale at a store in
the city. pic/Krunal Gosavi


Experts also complain that with little restrictions on traders who hold permits, combined with the lackadaisical approach of forest department officials, these bird sellers have now started trading in indigenous species like parakeets, munias, mynas and buntings.

As per the law, these indigenous specious are protected and a trader found selling them will either have to serve a seven-year jail term or pay a fine up to Rs 50,000.Expressing their displeasure, wildlife experts and bird lovers said that the sale of birds -- exotic and indigenous -- is a result of the loopholes present in the Wildlife (Protection) Act and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which have no provision for barring sale of exotic species in the country.

"There has been no provision stipulated against breeding and caging of exotic species as the birds unfortunately do not come under CITES. Now, we have been finding Indian birds like munias, finches, oriental white eyes and buntings in the market, which are being sold openly," said ornithologist Dr Satish Pande.

Pande's ELA Foundation, which runs courses on ornithology, is now aiming at distributing newsletters among people to empower them with knowledge about birds, which suffer in captivity. "We are convincing people not to cage them, instead bring them to the bird orphanage at Katraj, where they will be allowed to fly," he stated.
Colonel (Retd) J C Khanna, a former member of the Animal Welfare Board, said that the traders manage to procure permits from the forest department to keep exotic birds, which has not been questioned.

"The law is concerned only with shelter, food and water, it doesn't matter which birds are caged. Exotic or indigenous, one just needs to have a certificate for caging them. Whenever we raid a store, they show us the act, which has excluded trade of exotic species from its list," he said.

In 1997, the Bombay High Court had constituted a committee for preventing cruelty and illegal trade of birds, especially native, which temporarily curbed the illegal trade. But since no action was taken, the trade re-flourished.

"It's not illegal to cage birds, but there are restrictions, which should be maintained. If we get to know that indigenous birds like munias, hill mynas or parakeets are being caged, we immediately raid the shop. But we can't do anything about exotic species as we are made to follow the instances mentioned in the Act," said Nitin Kakodkar, chief conservator of forest, Pune.

Worrisome
Every month, about 15,000 birds are smuggled into the city via railway from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. They are either stuffed into cartons or gunny bags. While exotic bird species are brought in from Australia, South America or Nepal.

Price chart
The per pair price list of birds being sold illegally in the market
Munia: Rs 250
Oriental white eye: Rs 800 
Parakeet: Rs 3,000
Hill myna: Rs 3,500

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