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Conservationalists blame drummers for declining bird population

Written by: Staff

Kolkata, Sep 17 (UNI) As countdown began for Bengal's biggest festival - Durga Puja - the conservationists are getting nervous and apprehending mass killing of birds to meet growing demand of feathers for decoration of traditional ''Dhak'' (drum).

As Bengal festive season starts with Vishwakarma puja, the demand for dhak grows higher and higher for almost six weeks, till the end of Kali puja.

The ornithologists believe that every year thousands of birds of different variety are being butchered by poachers and seasonal killers to meet the growing demand of feather for traditional dhaks.

According to an estimate of the forest department, about 25,000 birds might be killed ahead of Durga Puja.

Conservationists are concerned over widespread catching of egrets, pheasants and herons as well as endangered open bill storks.

They are usually killed or knocked down with arrows by the poachers.

''The Dhakis use feathers to decorate Dhaks (the drums). So we have launched a vigorous campaign this year to make people aware agaisnt using feathers in dhak ,'' the forest officials said.

The feathers are generally sold at a rate of Rs 300 to Rs 600 per kg, depending on colour and quality, both in rural areas as well in the city.

''Egret feathers are used to decorate 'Dhaks'. The black hair from the tail of a black cow are also used in the drums. These are priced at Rs 3,000 per kg. We buy feathers and cow tail hair mainly from the city,'' Sanatan Ray, a drummer said.

The authorities are also meeting festivals' organisers to urge them to stop hiring the dhakis, who use feather on drums. Vigil has also been increased in wetlands and other areas where the birds congregate, a bird watcher said.

Conservationists say taking out feathers or killing an egret or heron, is a punishable offence.

In India, anyone convicted of killing a protected bird can be imprisoned for upto seven years or fined Rs 5,000 or both, the officials said.

Environmentalists say these birds are also sold in clandestine markets from a few hundred to a thousand rupees before their feathers are sliced and coloured to adorn drums.

Wildlife agencies said poaching is adding to the declining bird population in the country, who are facing a threat from a shrinking bird habitat.

Bird Life International, an NGO, recently warned that some 300 Asian bird species face extinction, particularly in India, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and China, due to poor protection and habitat destruction.


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