Strange death of wild birds in South Asia needs serious investigation

Post pandemic many bird lover’s sites on the internet and on many social media platforms mass bird death photos have been in circulation.

By Saikat Kumar Basu

Unfortunately quite a few are from india too; while others being reported from various South Asian countries adjoining India. Most of these disturbing pictures highlight Holocaust of Birds piled up at a spot. It is difficult to judge from these images if they are morphed or edited; but few appears to be genuine with location and date provided by individuals who spotted them in a forest or a village or a nature reserve or a solitary place. It is quite baffling and morbid to note mass death of birds; while some pointing towards any possible bird flu like diseases among these wild birds. In most cases I found these are local resident species not migratory birds; and are not waterfowls. Both small passerine birds and raptors are noted in these disturbing pictures posted on the net. 
Could this be poaching? But could also be intentional or accidental poisoning too. With all birds at the same spot dead is quite unnatural. Poaching chances more as we have seen traps earlier over everywhere. Indeed poaching is a more acceptable reason. However, it seems from the image provided that the birds are lying dead almost in a pile. Neither feathers nor dead bodies or carcasses have been removed by the potential poachers. This is quite unusual. A poacher would like to sell the bird as a taxidermy specimen or use feathers for local cottage industries or sell bush meat or sell live birds to collectors associated with illegal wildlife markets and/or wildlife traffickers. Here the birds are dumped at one place. It is important to check if beaks, toes and talons have been removed from the dead birds. Such body parts do have use in ritualistic or religious performances in some ethnic groups. 
Often such body parts are also used as souvenirs for superstitious believers in so called black magic or other ethno-cultural social practices or as natural body jewels. This could be some sort of sacrificial act too by someone or a group after capturing the unfortunate birds. Else poisoned birds have been dumped all at one place by someone after killing them. It is quite unusual for birds to die and dump at one place unless some sort of bird pandemic has impacted a flock. To my mind it is a human crime. A wildlife post mortem would have been best to assess the incidence. No doubt this is quite sinister and needs serious on site investigation if these are real incidents happening! 
However, if these are human induced deaths of wild birds then a poaching angle could not be eliminated. The pattern reported from various locations posted by different individuals are quite similar in the sway the different species of birds are dumped. A mass catch followed by slaughtering of the helpless birds for some purpose could be the motive. It is important therefore to raise awareness; and highlight or pinpoint susceptible areas from where these are being reported. It is disheartening to see that mass death of birds after so much hard fight for conservation of these species an essential component of our ecosystem. Rural communities, forest residents and fringe forest dwellers as well as tribal communities living in close association with forests need to be made stakeholders in the process of conservation of local biodiversity. They should be trained and paid to be vigilant about poaching incidents in their localities fir forest departments to take quick action. Strong coordination and cooperation is therefore needed between local rural and tribal communities and forest departments to quickly identify the poaching issues and take appropriate actions. 

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