Birdwatchers Help Nab Waterfowl Poachers in Siruthavur Lake Near Chennai

by Gnanaskandan Kesavabharathi (GK)
Gnanaskandan Kesavabharathi
The poachers in the lake retrieving a Painted Stork. Inset top - the gunman emerging from his hide in the bushes. Bottom - Eurasian Spoonbill and Cotton Pygmy Goose (Teal) were among the species killed by the hunters.

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Local hunting such as this is widely prevalent across India in both urban and rural areas. These hunters typically target waterfowl, deer, pig, etc. If you come across any such incidents please report them immediately to local law enforcement officials.

Two and half of hours of drama unfolded at the Siruthavur lake this morning (3rd June 2012). Five of us from the Madras Naturalists Society (MNS) had come to watch and photograph birds in Siruthavur lake, 40 km from Chennai in Tiruvallur district. The lake was full of birds when we arrived around 7 AM. Just as we reached the lakeshore we heard gunshots. We saw grey herons fall followed by egrets. The shots lasted for half an hour or so. Then a man in khakhi came out of his hide in the bushes to collect his hits. We noticed egrets placed as live baits around the hide to attract other birds. There were two hunters and two helpers. We immediately alerted the local Ranger (Thiruporur division).

Ranger Moorthy of Thiruporur division immediately sent two foresters. The foresters set into action right away. A 500 mm lens not only helps in bird photography but also in poacher photography, as we recorded every movement of the poachers and their helpers! And after half an hour of waiting, planning and running in foot-deep muddy waters, the foresters caught the poachers with their loaded guns along with the poached birds and were taken into custody.

When the drama was about to end, the helpers reappeared to collect the birds (thrown in water when the foresters appeared), and to our surprise the ranger himself appeared on the scene to nab the helpers as well!

The poachers were fined Rs. 10,000/-.

The birds killed were Eurasian Spoonbill, Painted Storks, Grey & Purple Herons, Great Egrets, Glossy Ibis and Cotton Pygmy Goose (India’s smallest duck). The birds have been sent to Vandalur Zoo in Chennai for post-mortem.

We had a huge feeling of relief that atleast for now more birds will not be killed in Siruthavur lake — something which we, as the common man, can give back to Nature!

Click to read the Times of India article about the incident.


CI’s legal opinion from Praveen Bhargav of Wildlife First:

Absolutely great effort by the birdwatchers and the forest department!

Actually, the forest department should have prosecuted the poachers instead of compounding the case. Here’s why:

  • Sub-section 4 of Section 54 (of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972) lays down that no offence which carries a minimum imprisonment term can be compounded.
  • Sub-section (1) of Section 51 imposes a minimum imprisonment term of three years and fine which is not less than ten thousand rupees for all hunting offences against any animal specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II outside a National Park or Sanctuary.
  • Note: All hunting offences against any animal listed in Schedule I – IV committed in a National Park or Sanctuary carries a minimum penalty of three years.
  • Also, the weapon in all probability is an illegal one and a complaint with the Police would have ensured that the hunters would have faced prosecution under the Arms Act with possession of an illegal weapon being a non-bailable offence.

Therefore, a hunting offence against any wild animal listed in Schedule I cannot be compounded by imposing a fine. It is mandatory to prosecute the offender by filing a complaint before the Judicial Magistrate (First Class).

About the author

Gnanaskandan Kesavabharathi (GK)

GK is a Chennai-based birdwatcher and a member of the Madras Naturalists Society (MNS). He works as a software engineer.

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