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Dying peacocks -

nabadip - Thu, 16 Jun 2005 23:13:59 +0530
Dying peacocks have only old man to look up to

Avinash Dutt/ Indore
The Pioneer, Delhi

Ninety-year-old Gopal Chaudhary, a resident of village Pipliya Kumar, loves doing what he has been doing for years - watching peacocks. But, this time, the antics of the national bird, he has grown up with, are not the first thing on his mind. For, he is always on the lookout for peacocks on a tree or a rooftop - either sick or dull.

With eyesight rare for his age, the eldest person of the village was the first to notice a peacock dropping down from a neem tree on Saturday morning. The bird was panting for breath and a yellowish fluid was oozing from its mouth. Then, some children found another large-winged bird beside a drain.

The village is just 10 km away from the municipal limits of Indore, but it took several hours before help arrived. Te proximity to the city has apparently taken its toll on the peacocks. Shady crown-shape trees with low-lying branches like babool, mango and neem, which harbour semi-flightless peacocks, succumbed to mushrooming steel and glass facade buildings. Eve as the concrete jungle swallowed the lone pond of the village, water-holes dried up.

"For the first time in my life I saw a dead peacock. These peacocks have protected us all along," Sanjeev Chaudhary, deputy sarpanch of the village told The Pioneer. "The peacocks have brought this village prosperity. They have lived with us since the village came into being," he added. Of several villages in the 15-km radius, this village is the only one which is home to the colourful bird.

Chaudhary says that when he rang up the police station, the officer ridiculed him and asked him to approach Forest Department instead.

Even from the forest office, hardly a few kilometers away, aid did not come on time as it was a second Saturday, a Government holiday. By the time forest officials swung into action, the lone surviving bird died.

Next day, nine more were found, either dead or on the verge of dying. On Monday, two dead and a sick bird were recovered, a day after another fell on the ground from the roof of a house while trying to hop to nearest tree.

Absolutely clueless, the villagers suspected that the deaths might have something to do with polluted water from the drains coming from near by hospital and Indore Development Authority colonies.

"Though the birds were thoroughly dehydrated, they did not die of thirst," said divisional forest officer Ms Samita Rajora. Each of the autopsies conducted on 10 dead birds gave out a different reason.

Explaining the phenomenon, Ms Rajora said: "Actually the birds were ill and the heatwave aggravated their problems." The healthier ones survived the weather, she claimed.

Though one of the dead birds was found carrying a contagious virus, she insisted that it was not an epidemic. "We have spread maze laced with antibiotics in the entire area and deployed men near the drain that is suspected to have polluted water, but it is the pressure on their habitat," she said.

Peacocks, like monkeys, do not migrate. They will die of thirst, but will not drink water if a man or dog is near by. They are a very localised birds, she added.

In this particular village they survived so far because the local people were aware and kept poachers at bay, but how long, questions the officer.

"It's as usual a deadly fight between man and nature," she said.