Despite massive conservation efforts, the illegal wildlife trade continues around the world, putting endangered species at risk and threatening millions of vulnerable animals.
In India, the trade of pet birds is a big issue. Thus, this makes the news of 550 protected Indian birds being rescued from an illegal pet market in Kolkata even more harrowing.
On April 7, 2019, the Hindustan Times reported that the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), under the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change and the West Bengal forest department rescued hundreds of Indian birds from a notorious illegal pet market on Galiff Street in central Kolkata in two consecutive raids. The authorities managed to seize 550 protected Indian birds, including the parakeet, hill myna, and Asian Koel. According to the report, several newborn chicks were also found crammed inside a small cage.
Nine people were arrested in connection with the raid. The individuals were between the ages of 18 and 32.
This wasn’t the first seizure of birds on Galiff Street. In June 2018, 65 parakeets and three hill mynas were seized from an auto rickshaw that was on its way to the market.
“The hill myna is protected under Schedule I of the wildlife protection act, while parakeets are protected under Schedule IV,” Suvendu Sinha, the range officer of Wildlife Crime Control Division of the forest department, told the Telegraph.
According to Sinha, people who are convicted of trading, killing, or hunting an animal that is protected by Schedule I will face imprisonment of at least seven years.
Despite this law, illegal trading of animals continues.
In October 2018, exotic birds and animals, including two lemurs, one baby marmoset, and one Bengal cat, were seized at Kolkata Airport after they were smuggled into India from Bangkok via Myanmar.
Meanwhile, head northwest to the country’s capital and you’ll find that the illegal bird trade there is an issue too. In 2015, the situation on New Delhi’s bird trade was the topic of a report published in India Today.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and chairman of Wildlife SOS, told the publication: “The burning issue at the moment is the trade in pet birds. It is very unfortunate that the species, though protected, are still trafficked widely.”
Birds are often smuggled, hundreds at a time and are usually stuffed in small boxes or cages before being transported without being given food or water for several days. India Today estimates that for every 10 birds that are smuggled, only 1 will survive.
Aside from the abuse that the animals endure during their transportation, prosecuting these crimes can be extremely tough, as it can be hard to determine whether the birds were caught in the wild, smuggled, or bred in an aviary. “Birds that are smuggled are fraudulently legitimized by saying that they are captive bred in India, which ‘technically’ makes them aviary bred or exotic birds. These are not covered under the Wildlife Protection Act,” Satyanarayan, said.