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Panidihing Bird Sanctuary struggles against escalating threats as bird killings persist

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HT Correspondent

 

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SIVASAGAR, Nov 27: Despite sustained efforts by the Forest Department and various bird and animal rights NGOs to raise awareness, the Panidihing Bird Sanctuary near Saraguawa continues to face a concerning surge in bird killings, especially during the arrival of migratory species in large numbers.

As the winter season arrives, the skies over West Panidihing, along the Brahmaputra under Demow PS, witness a spectacular sight of skeins of ducks in flight, accompanied by the sonorous honking of swans. The sanctuary, spanning an expansive 8370.7 acres, plays a critical role as a wetland area forming part of the erstwhile Maharani Reserve Forest. Migratory birds, fatigued and hungry, congregate here to feed on the newly sprouting grass shoots in the wetland, nurtured by the abundance of fish and aquatic insects in the numerous beels.

Despite being declared a Bird Sanctuary by the state government in December 1995, the menace of poaching remains unabated. Unscrupulous individuals employ various methods, with one prevailing tactic being the spraying of Furadon-tainted boiled rice near beels. Migratory ducks, in their congregated state, unknowingly consume this toxic feed, rendering them unable to take flight. The helpless birds then fall prey to merciless poachers who capture them alive, transporting them to dhabas along the NH37 to cater to select customers in the early hours.

The consequences of these illicit activities extend beyond avian life. On Nov 24, a tragic incident unfolded as a pregnant buffalo perished after grazing on Furadon-mixed grassland near the Foklia beel. This incident underscores the urgent need for a permanent ban on pesticides and nematicides, a demand echoed by cattle owners in the region.

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Despite the gravity of the situation, the Forest Department grapples with perennial staff shortages, exacerbating the challenge of safeguarding these sanctuaries. In the Saragua Beat Office, the alarming reality is that only one Beat Officer and two guards, lacking firearms, stand as the last line of defense against poachers. A local youth revealed that conflicts with the Forest Guards are not uncommon, with a section of the local fishing community openly defying warnings and engaging in bird killings.

Compounding the issue is the government’s decision to withdraw firearms from Forest Guards, potentially emboldening perpetrators. The fear of retaliation through firearms has served as a deterrent, and its absence could open the floodgates to rampant bird and animal killings, with these sanctuaries becoming vulnerable to vandalism.

Panidihing Bird Sanctuary, flanked by Demow, Desang, and the Brahmaputra on three sides, is a haven for a diverse array of migratory and domestic bird species. Pochards, shovellers, garganeys, ruddy shelducks, grey-leg geese, bar-headed geese, and many more grace the sanctuary. However, the number of residential species is dwindling rapidly due to the diminishing green cover surrounding the sanctuary, raising concerns among bird enthusiasts.

In response to the escalating threats, the newly formed Panidihing Pakhi Abhayaranya Surakhya Samity is calling upon the district administration to strengthen security measures for the avian inhabitants. Simultaneously, they urge the government to take stringent action against the culprits responsible for jeopardizing the ecological balance of this vital sanctuary. The people’s plea is clear – the time to act is now, to ensure the survival and flourishing of the avian treasures that grace the Panidihing Bird Sanctuary.

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