Kolkata, May 22: Thousands of colourful exotic birds are being bred by over 30,000 breeders across West Bengal.
The bird business is definitely booming. From parakeets of different hues like yellow, blue, ash, white, grey-black or violet, foreign birds are finding a huge market in India.
However, these breeders, who are successfully running this business for almost three decades, are presently fighting a battle with the Government to get recognition as an industry.
A breeder from Uttarpara in Hooghly district, Pranabesh Mukherjee said, "Its illegal to keep Indian birds as pets according to the Wildlife Protection Act. However, there is no law preventing breeding and trade of foreign exotic birds in India."
"But no government campaign against keeping birds in cages make this distinction. The government advertisements give the impression that no birds can be kept as pets," Mukherjee said, added that this often led to harassment by police during transportation of the foreign birds.
Ratan Kumar Mitra, another breeder said, "The foreign birds are finding large markets here because of the sheer variety in colour. Smaller birds like the budgerigars, finch, the hugely popular lovebirds, parakeets and even larger ones like Rosella have undergone colour mutation abroad, through human intervention."
The birds are bred in captivity by the breeders here who set up nesting boxes or nesting pots in the cages of the breeding pair.
A Rosella breeding pair may deliver two or three lots of babies, each lot having at least five to six baby birds. Eight breeding pairs can make up to Rs two lakh on an average per year.
The birds bred in Bengal are sold across the country, from Uttar Pradesh to Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu to Rajasthan, Orissa to Assam.
The weather conditions here can be a problem at times as these birds originally belong to Africa, Australia, the West Indies and other Islands across the world, but being bred in captivity, their adaptability is much better.
For many in rural areas, the exotic bird breeding business is yielding huge profits in comparison to poultry or cattle, but the government's ambiguous stand is creating problems for the breeders.
Pronab Mitra, who has founded an organization 'Bird Breeders and Lovers' Association of Kolkata', said, "In states like Tamil Nadu and Delhi, huge breeding farms have been set up. But in Bengal, which probably has the largest number of small-scale breeders, the government has done nothing to promote the industry or even to allow the breeders to carry on working peacefully."
The breeders' say even the business of rearing exotic fishes has found official sanction, but there is lot of confusion and wrong propaganda regarding breeding and trade of exotic birds.
They claim that because of availability of these colourful exotic birds, pet lovers are now not buying Indian birds like Tia and Chandana, bringing down the illegal trade in Indian birds and helping in their protection.
The government cannot even make an argument against breeding birds in cages. Experiments are on to rear vultures in cages after facing extinction in the wild.
The exotic bird business has thrived against all odds. It requires little investment but yields good profit.
Most breeders run this as a side business with help from their families in caring for the birds.
A lit bit a support in the proper direction could generate self-employment to thousands more in the future. By Ajitha Menon