Winged guests on sale: Bird vendors flouting laws

by Shafiqur Rahman Khan


The selling of migratory birds popularly called guest birds has already begun in different waysides, particularly near the Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament), the Elephant Road and in the Motijheel Commercial Area in the city.

In the evening of January 2, a group of people was found openly selling migratory birds near Sangsad Bhaban, in front of the Eastern Plaza on the New Elephant road, in Moghbazar and other parts of the city.It has been a cruel act meted out to birds. Most often the vendors take their catch on road side in the heart of the city and sell them to buyers who buy them for a mouthful of delicious food.

Migratory birds have already arrived in the northern region, greater Mymensingh, Faridpur and Sylhet districts and some districts of the central parts of the country this winter season.

The migratory birds have also started arriving in the lakes of Jahangirnagar University, and those of the BDR area and the canal adjoining the ceramic factory at Mirpur-12 in the city from various countries of Europe, particularly from Siberia.

According to sources, about 300 species of birds are there in our country, among them 150 fall in the category of guest or migratory birds. About 14 species (kinds) of them, locally known as Sharali, Chokha, Patari, Hansh, Hudhud, Chatak, Khanjim, Ringplober, Ziria, Seraili, Lanza, Sargil, Balihas are among the various guest birds which come in different parts of the country once a year and stay till March, they said adding usually the birds in flocks start coming in December.

The bio-geographic location of Bangladesh attracts thousand of migratory birds each year. According to the ornithologists there are about 6,000 species of birds in Bangladesh and about one-third of them are migratory birds which visit us in the winter, when the climate here is much warmer than that of their own habitat. Among the migratory ducks that visit our country are Gadwall, Gargany, Tuft Duck, Mallord, Greylag Goose, Common Pochard, Pintail, Common Tail etc. These birds usually arrive in batches from the middle of October but last year they were late comer and they came during the middle of December.

There are nearly 9,000 species of birds all over the world. A number of species have become extinct, quite a few have become endangered and on the verge of becoming extinct. Most of the birds are highly mobile because of their power of flight. Each species has a definite geographic range, which can surround several continents or only a small island.

There is a law for conservation of wildlife in Bangladesh and that was passed in 1974.

According to experts, there has been a gradual decline in the arrival of migratory birds population with every passing year. They cited the reasons for this unwelcome phenomenon: Destruction of habitat, random killing through hunting, unawareness about the relevant laws, lack of awareness about the fact that these birds often act as balancing agents of nature, indiscriminate use of pesticide etc.

In this respect the sellers of birds said that they collected the birds from the interior of the Northern areas, grater Mymensingh, Grater Faridpur, Sylhet districts and some districts of the central parts of the country. They were smuggled through the adjacent districts of Gazipur, Narsingdi, Narayanganj and Manikganj with the chalan transport of the local goose and chicken. The bird sellers told me that a pair of Bali hansh (goose) sells at Tk. 400 to Tk. 600 and Seraili at Tk 550 to Tk. 600 per pair. They also said that there is an organised network for bringing these birds to various urban places including the capital after catching them by net or traps from their temporary habitat in the country.A seller of migratory birds at Elephant Road said they do not face any problem in selling them because of maintaining an alleged cordial relationship with the law enforcing agencies. They know that selling of these birds is prohibited and punishable under law.

But, it is a big surprise that thousands of people the vendors and nobody raises any protest against selling of guest birds this way. Police personnel were also seen passing through the spot and they ignore it. The law enforcing people seen to have forgotten that killing of wild lives is a criminal offence and punishable under the law of the land.

One can also witness the uninterrupted sale of birds in the city's thoroughfare in Manik Mia Avenue, Gulistan, Farmgate, Panthapath, New Market and at Moghbzbazar crossing to name some of the spots.

When I happened to be at Elephant road in one afternoon, a few days ago the vendors were displaying the guest birds for sale.

As I attempted to take photographs of the birds hanging their heads down from the vendors hand, they tried to resist me. But they failed. Most people wonder how this cruel act can continue under the very nose of the law enforcing people. The cruelty to birds is recently on the rise. The bird sellers do a bright business through the winter season when the guest birds stay in the country for a safe sanctuary from the far distant region of Siberia.

The question is now whether the law enforcing people and the people in general would take up the issue and come up to protect the wild lives, particularly to protect the birds from being killed.

Will somebody take the lead to mobilise the civic conscience and a resistance against it, a passer-by wondered in this connection.

A gentleman ruefully said that unfortunately birds are not safe even in the hands of law enforcers as most of them are fond of duck roast as the affluent are fond of roast of wild birds. Generally people in our country are battered by poverty and they sell birds as they find at profitable. It is the moral force that can restrict the violators of the Conservation Act, he added.

Source: The Independent Friday 5 January 2001