By Baishali Adak
Exotic winter migratory birds, which brave adverse weather and vast stretches of land to reach Delhi at this time of year, are now falling prey to poachers.
Najafgarh drain and jheel, which recently recorded the highest number of migratory birds among all habitats in the region, are now lined with traps to ensnare the unsuspecting birds.
These include net meshes, stick-and-thread set-ups, and what are known as ‘gum traps’.
Birds get entangled in these during the day and are ‘collected’ by poachers at night.
These traps were noticed by environment sciences students of the nearby Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University during their research work and bird-watching excursions.
The students say they have been seeing these ‘instruments’ for a long time but did not realise their real ‘use’ till they saw birds actually stuck in them.
Large tufts of feathers lying around these sites, indicating the ‘undressing’ of the birds, confirmed their suspicion.
Bird enthusiasts say Najafgarh jheel could have become a favourite hunting ground for such elements because of its ‘unprotected status’ and ‘undisturbed surroundings’.
Winter migratory birds are sought after for their meat and also for trading.
Old Delhi has for long been known as a market for bird trading.
Dr Sanjay Keshari Das, Assistant Professor at the School of Environment Management in GGSIP University, said: “At first we saw large net meshes on the grassland adjoining the drain… Then we also saw gum traps.
"We realised that a well-organised network of poachers is operating in the drain and jheel,” Das added.
Ecologist T.K. Roy said he has seen carcasses of birds in these parts which villagers attributed to poisoning.
“In the last two years, when I went there for the winter Asian Waterbird Census counting, I spotted dead birds.
"The villagers there told me that poison is left in the water consumed by birds.
"At night, they are picked up by the poachers, poisoned intestines removed and the meat sold,” Roy told Mail Today.
Another birdwatcher K.B. Singh added: “We too noticed this activity some months back when there were not as many winter migratory birds but a good number of the summer resident waterfowl.
"We found the poachers were carrying spot-billed ducks and common moorhens in gunny bags.
"When we confronted them, they fled.
"The fact that this kind of an activity is going on in the national Capital is really condemnable.”