Pelican Poaching, Chennai

by Samyak Kaninde
Samyak Kaninde

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

Waterfowl poaching, both casual and organised, is a huge concern in Kelambakkam just like any other wetland in India. A more vigilant forest task force especially on weekends (when the meat is in demand) and quick turnaround to reach these spots are critical to put these shameful atrocities to an end. 

 

This image is one of a series of pictures I took on 1st January 2013 while watching birds at Chennai’s Kelambakkam lake. This brackish backwater lake is home to a lot of migrant and resident bird species throughout the year.

This is also a haven for poachers who regularly target this place for large number of local and migratory birds during winter for the excessive demand for meat on weekends. In this instance, it didn’t seem like organised poaching but rather casual hunting by the local workers who were digging around these backwaters/salt pans.

I have previously reported such incidents to forest officials and also caught them red handed poaching with poached birds. In this case, as there were a lot of workers, I was also worried about our safety in case of trouble. Hence, I silently kept taking photographs from behind a bush with my telephoto lens of this gruesome killing.

Here are the shocking details of what happened:

A Spot-billed or Grey Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) [conservation status: near threatened] was caught in a net on the backwaters (not sure whether intended to catch birds). A local worker seizes the opportunity and drags the bird towards the bund. His accomplice arrives there with a gunny bag. The pelican’s left wing is completely injured after being entangled in the deadly net. The pelican is attacked using a shovel the men were carrying. The next blow came in the chest (captured in the image) and then the abdomen. The pelican was crying with pain after this. Then he put the shovel around the neck and tried to strangle the pelican’s neck. Finally, the pelican gave up and they grabbed it by the wings and beak and stuffed it into the gunny bag.

Waterfowl poaching, both casual and organised, is a huge concern in Kelambakkam just like any other wetland in India. A more vigilant forest task force especially on weekends (when the meat is in demand) and quick turnaround to reach these spots are critical to put these shameful atrocities to an end.



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