Vellayani wetlands turn hunting ground for poachers

Vellayani wetlands turn hunting ground for poachers

With major section of the government machinery focused on combating the pandemic, many rare bird species that visit Vellayani face the danger of poaching

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Vellayani Lake and the wetlands surrounding it, which have been hailed as the haven of migratory birds, are fast turning into hunting grounds for poachers during the lockdown. Ever since the lockdown was declared in the wake of the pandemic, the number of complaints related to poaching activities has increased raising serious concerns on the safety of several endangered migratory bird species at Vellayani Lake and the nearby wetlands.

Many rare bird species that visit Vellayani during the summer face the danger of poaching. Authorities concerned are unable to take action as the entire machinery is busy focusing on the enforcement of lockdown restrictions and the containment of the pandemic.

Moorhens–a kind of water birds–and parrots are being hunted down for consumption. Around 160 local and migratory birds species including grey-headed lapwing (Russia, China), hoopoe (Israeli national bird), oriental skylark and the yellow wattled lapwing are spotted at Vellayani. The Kerala State Biodiversity Board had listed around 133 bird species at Vellayani and nearby wetlands as part of a project back in 2016.

Recently, Kalliyoor Panchayat authorities have complained about the poaching activities at the Punchakkari wetlands at Vellayani. Local farmers are often stumbling upon traps set up by poachers to catch migratory birds and other local bird species. The panchayat authorities recently spotted a vehicle transporting poached birds and complained to the police.Kerala State Biodiversity Board Chairman S C Joshy told TNIE that the number of complaints relating to poaching activities was on the rise during the lockdown.

“We have taken up the issue seriously with the departments concerned. I have issued directions to the Forest Department and police authorities to take immediate action and book the culprits under the Biodiversity Act. Poaching is a non-bailable offence with three years imprisonment and Rs 3 lakh as fine,” said Joshy. He said that the board has deployed district nodal officers across the state to monitor such activities and ensure action under the Biodiversity Act.

The Forest Department and the police authorities have launched an inquiry upon receiving complaints but unfortunately, both the departments are unable to locate or book the culprits. Paruthipally range officer Shaji Jose said that they have sought the assistance of the Motor Vehicles Department to get the details of the owner of the vehicle used by the poachers. “We have a Rapid Response Team keeping track of such activities and responding to complaints. We are trying to track down the owner of the vehicle which was used for such activities but because of the lockdown, we are unable to expedite the investigation,” said Shaji.

Aswin B Raj, a local bird watcher, said: “This is the first time the police and the Forest Department have intervened and it’s a good sign. We have rescued many birds trapped in the nets set up by farmers. They often take steps to protect their crop which makes the place hostile for birds.” He said that strict action should be taken against the violators engaged in such illegal activities.

Bird species at Vellayani

  • Greater painted sanipe 
  • Wood sandpiper 
  • Eurasian marsh harrier
  • Rosy starling 
  • Glossy ibis
  • Open-billed stork
  • Common myna
  • Jungle myna
  • Darter
  • Little cormorant
  • Great cormorant
  • Indian cormorant
  • Yellow bitten
  • Cinnamon bittern
  • Black bittern
  • Pale-billed flowerpecker
  • Purple heron
  • Great egret
  • Intermediate egret
  • Little egret
  • Cattle egret
  • Rufous treepie
  • House crow
  • Jungle crow
  • Common tailorbird
  • Purple rumped sunbird
  • Zitting cisticola
  • Water cock
  • Lesser whistling duck
  • Cotton pygmy goose
  • White-breasted waterhen
  • Indian spot-billed duck
  • Little Grebe
  • Common pigeon
  • Red-wattled lapwing
  • Bronze-winged jacana
  • Asian koel
  • White-cheeked barbet
  • Common moorhen
  • Common coot
  • Purple swamphen
  • Pond heron


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