The national bird of India, the Peacock is being conserved via various authorities, NGOs, the law etc., and consequently, there has been a tremendous increase in its population in India. But unfortunately, the state bird of Telangana, the Indian Roller or Coracias benghalensis wasn’t subject to such attention previously.
This bird gets its name due to its peculiar aerial acrobats. It rolls midair. Commonly called as the Palapitta, the Indian Roller is a brown bird with a smattering of blue cowers inside. It’s a native to the Indian sub-continent, and inhabits agricultural fields, riverine habitats, bushes etc.
Seeing a Palapitta during Dusshera is believed to bring good luck to individuals. This is the reason these birds are being poached. With the constant decline of forest cover in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, these birds are now restricted to live in few available patches of forests, which is making their hunt easier. Poachers set up camps in agricultural lands and other places that have the potential to host these birds. They catch these birds using trapping poles and then glue their wings to prevent them from escaping. They are then stuffed into cages. Their feet is tied up using a wire or a small rope to restrict their movement.
Starving, thirsty, exhausted, and desperate to escape, these birds are subjected to some very inhuman treatment, just so a few swindlers who exploit the masses in the name of beliefs can earn some quick bucks. During most part of their captivity, these poor birds are barely fed. As a result, by the end of the festive season, most die. Though there are instances of well-meaning folks buying these birds and releasing them, the birds are met with an equally sad plight, as they might upon being caged in their current conditions. For Indian Rollers are very territorial in nature. So the other rollers and sub species from the new area may be threatened by the perceived competition and end up attacking the newly entered Indian roller, often killing it. This behavior makes it very difficult for the birds to survive elsewhere, apart from their place of birth.
Their rapid decline in this manner has finally brought the importance and dire need to conserve them to the forefront. Presently, the Indian Roller is protected under Schedule IV of the 1972 Indian Wildlife Act. Possession of this bird can lead to a penalty of 25,000 or imprisonment for up to 3 years or both. Along with this, conducting awareness about the importance of wildlife to both rural and urban children and adults may be effective in saving these rollers. The fact that Palapitta is an insectivore and thereby saves hundreds of rupees for the farmer by predating upon the regular insectivorous pests infecting crops must be emphasized to the masses, especially in rural areas. It must be highlighted among the population that the more of “Palapittalu” that people see alive, flying, rolling in the air is indicative of a more healthy and pronounced yield, which keep the farmer happy. Now that, is the true mark of lady luck!
Deepak Tarun is a post graduate in Zoology. Not one to embrace anything at its face value, Deepak believes in really digging to the roots, before arriving at a decision. A budding wildlife biologist and passionate knowledge seeker, Deepak likes to read, and watch stand-up comedy in his spare time.