Paying a price for being beautiful

A series of instances of killing of peacocks have been reported. After repeated instances of such killings in Bundi district in April, 23 more were found dead in Bhilwara and Ajmer last month, where poachers used the poison-laced grain as bait.

Wildlife activists and environmentalists attribute this mass killing for its meat and attractive feathers. "People from some nomadic tribes kill them as they believe that peacock meat has extraordinary medicinal powers," said a forest official.

    Farmers also poison the birds when they venture in to their lands.
But, peacocks are generally killed for their beautiful feathers. State coordinator of the Peoples for Animal, Babu Lal Jaju said many people trade in peacock feathers as it is used to make wide range of decorative articles, of which there is a flourishing cottage industry in Agra. "Besides, the feathers are also sold at many tourist destinations and have a huge demand in other countries leading to smuggling of the feathers," he added.

  The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 prohibits killing of peacocks and export of tail feathers or articles made of them. But the Act allows domestic trade in feathers or articles under the assumption that these are naturally shed. “Here is the catch,” he said. 

It has been brought to the ministry's notice that the demand for feathers is more than its supply, leading to rampant poaching of the bird. According to sources, the Ministry of Environment and Forests is in the process of banning the trade of peacock feathers by proposing to amend Sections 43(3) (a) and 44 of the Act, which relate to the transfer and sale of the tail feathers of peacocks. This will prevent illegal trapping and killing of the national bird for their feathers.

Over the years, as human habitation expanded in the countryside, peacock sighting has become a rarity in most villages. While no peacock census has been held in India to assess their numbers, a scientific survey by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, has confirmed that visibility of the bird has sharply declined in India.

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