By Vijay Pinjarkar
NAGPUR: In view of reports of high mortality of peacocks in various parts of the country, due to poaching and for other reasons, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has directed the state chief wildlife wardens to grant highest degree of protection to the national bird.
"Any case of mortality of peacocks must be enquired into and dealt with on priority being a Schedule I species in Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA) 1972. In view of poaching, there is an urgent need to accord adequate and highest degree of protection," said SK Khanduri, inspector general of forests (IGF) for wildlife in a directive issued on May 7.
In the region, it has been observed that forest staff either do not attend calls or arrive late when people call to rescue peacocks in distress. Recently, a peacock died in Somalwada due to negligence of forest staff. Besides, there is also no action or inquiry against sellers of peacock tail feathers to know if these have been made by hunting the birds.
Though Indian Peafowl is a Schedule-I bird under of the WPA, the Act provides certain exemptions under Sections 43, 44 (4) and 49 (a) for transport, transfer and trade in the peacock tail feathers within the country. Peacock tail feathers are commonly used in the country for various religious, cultural and traditional purposes and are also traded freely.
In recent past, there have been reports of high peacock mortality. Reports suggest peacocks are hunted specifically for their feathers, to meet large-scale demand for articles made from them. Besides, they are also hunted for meat in some parts of the country.
Khanduri said it was observed that in the name of the exemptions available to peacock feathers in WPA and as the birds were found outside forests as well as within, genuine action for protection was not being taken.
The exemptions do not authorize any person/trader to either not reveal the origin of the stock being traded or keep in stock illegally obtained feathers, or to not follow the rest of the provisions of the Act that authorize the enforcement agencies on relevant matters, including those related to stock and trade of peacock feathers. Thus checking of stock and records for source, chain of custody and trade of Schedule I species will be completely within the powers of authorized enforcement agencies, the letter says.
Khanduri said while feathers may be collected and possessed by communities for religious, cultural and subsistence needs, nobody was exempted from ban on hunting. Killing and plucking feathers, within or outside forests was not only an offence, but attracted punishment, he added.
MoEF has asked the states to take action to check the trade of illegally obtained peacock feathers and undertake periodical checks in the stock of dealers and put the samples to forensic investigation for identifying the origin.
What MoEF wants
* Any case of mortality of peacocks must be enquired into and dealt with on priority being a Schedule I species in Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
* Exemptions are available only from regulation within the Act on transfer, transport and trade of peacock tail feathers and article made from them
* While feathers may be collected and possessed by communities for religious, cultural and subsistence needs, hunting of peacocks for any reason is completely banned
* Killing and plucking feathers anywhere attracts punishment under the relevant sections of law