Nature & biodiversity lovers are going all out in demanding justice for the Sarus crane that has been imprisoned for its friendship with a human! It is being cried out that a bird born free must not be made to pay the price of not understanding human laws- of not realizing its ‘protected’ status and all that it entails! And then, it is not just one crane, but two- one at Kanpur zoo and the other at Lucknow zoo- that have been isolated without reason! Yes, without reason. Who is telling the officials not to penalize or warn or take action against the person(s) who they think broke the law by approaching and luring the bird(s), but why should the man be walking away free while the bird has to be ‘jailed’ at the zoo?
We understand that Sarus is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2022, which came into effect on April 1. This prohibits individuals from capturing, hunting, keeping, or feeding it. It is also the State bird of Uttar Pradesh and is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. But the point is not to defy the law. It is to ensure that in case a rule is breached, it is the man and not the bird that pays the price because birds don’t understand human laws nor is their behaviour governed by them, though that of a human being is! Hence, if anyone has to be put in isolation or removed from the scene, it should be the man and not the bird. What is more, all that talk about releasing it into its natural habitat would be just that-talk! I have seen so many birds or beasts being brought to the zoos on that claim, but they end up being caged for life on the excuse that they would be used to reproduce and increase numbers! Really! And, where are all these natural habitats the authorities keep talking about? The wetlands are being rapidly encroached upon with no action by the government.
Let us illustrate our point with an example: In Haiderpur wetland (that falls within the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary and Bijnor district), the canal was drained out this January, forcing tens and thousands of migratory birds to fly off, leaving one of the most prominent migratory birds nesting site in West UP; when the forest officials raised objections, the irrigation department claimed it had permission as farmers had protested of waterlogging in their fields due to high groundwater levels. This is a protected Ramsar site, let us point out! However, orders were issued that no further dewatering is done. Then a survey was conducted which shockingly revealed that locals had started farming (wheat crop) on the land. Recently Bijnor district administration organized a trial of canoeing, kayaking and rowing events upstream from the wetland as it explored the possibility of converting it into a water sport site to attract tourists in the area. Do you think it will then remain a natural habitat for any of the species present there? The forest department has raised objections once again, but will its pleas be heard in the wake of earning moolah? Greedy they! Then, developmental inroads are being made into so many wetlands and sanctuaries that it has – or will- become impossible for the native- or even annual guest- species to continue inhabiting them.
In such a scenario, if the birds (even beasts, for that matter) take to living in harmony with humans- alongside them- can you blame either the man or the ‘crane’? What can be done is either to conduct strings of surveys to ensure all wetlands – big, small or petty- still EXIST and that too in their natural state, or amend the laws once again and let the man be a savior to birds (beasts) that are forced to dwell with him due to government apathy and greed for development over natural green cover! Go on, follow the West here too!