By Vivek Tripathi
Lucknow, Mar 26 (IANS): The debate on sarus crane - the state bird of Uttar Pradesh - has intensified in the state, with the ruling BJP and the Opposition parties engaging in a political slugfest over the issue of safety of such wild bird species.
Recently, Mohammed Arif (30), a resident of Mandka village in Amethi, came into limelight after his pictures and videos with a sarus crane went viral on social media, following which he was also interviewed by several media outlets.
Samajwadi Party's chief Akhilesh Yadav, who came to Amethi a few days back, also went to Mandka and met Arif. After learning about the sarus crane, the state Forest Department took custody of the bird from Arif. Since then, the matter has gathered steam across political circles.
According to the Forest Department, as per the census done in June 2022, there are 19,180 sarus cranes spotted in the state. Etawah and Auraiya have the highest 4,437 sarus cranes. In December 2021, the number of sarus cranes in the state was 17,665.
The counting of this stork bird could not be done in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Abu Arshad, Wildlife Warden-Endangered Project at state Forest Department, says that the sarus crane is the tallest among the flying birds in the world. Its height is upto five to six feet while the male and female sarus cranes look alike.
The Gruidae species are the only birds that breed in the southern part of the Himalayas and are found in most areas of Uttar Pradesh.
These species of birds are found in Etawah, Mainpuri, Shahjahanpur, Etah, Aligarh in large numbers. The sarus cranes lives on the banks of the river, marshy land, lakes, ponds or in the open skies. This bird eats food such as roots, stems and grains of the aquatic plants.
Apart from this, this bird eats lizards, frogs, fish, snakes etc and breeds between July and December. They build nest near lakes and ponds with the help of grass pallets. Apart from this, they are very sensitive towards their nest and don't let any living come near it. Their babies stay with them for a year and are born generally in pairs.
The Wildlife Warden said that the Amethi incident has led to an impression that since the sarus cranes are living together with human beings, their natural habitat has been affected and is not getting requisite nutrients for its growth. Experts have advised to keep these birds in the zoo.
It is an offence to catch, touch and disturb such endangered birds and their eggs.
Dr. Brajendra of Lucknow Zoo says that sarus crane is considered a sensitive bird and does not eat potato and rice. "It is very important to receive the requisite diet so that this bird can remain healthy. They usually eat grass, grains etc. They eat takes about 500 to 700 gram of food at a time."
At present, there is no growth in the number of these birds living alongside human beings for nearly a year.
Ashok Kashyap, another Lucknow Zoo veterinarian, says: "If you domesticate any animal or bird, it starts getting attached to you emotionally. But you cannot do this for long since there is a change in their wild nature due to which they can attack human beings which can be fatal."
It is forbidden to keep a wild animal for long with humans since the former will not be able to receive a proper diet which could deteriorate its health and ultimately it may die.
Kaushalendra Singh, a member of Uttarakhand Wildlife Board, says: "Sarus crane is a protected bird. If the bird is found in an injured state, a person must inform the forest department. They should be kept at their home. Their natural behaviour must not be disturbed... If they come in contact with humans regularly, they will not breed..."
Vivek Singh, an ornithologist, says: "Male and female sarus cranes live in pairs and build their clan. There is unbreakable love between them such that if one crane out of the couple dies due to any reason, then the other bird also dies."
Sarus cranes are also considered a friends of farmers as they eat insects. These birds are listed in the schedule of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Senior political analyst Ratanmani Lal says: "The rules for such wild bird species are very clear. The care of such animals and birds comes under the control of the Forest Department. Attachment to animals and birds is a good thing for any human being but they should be looked after by a veterinary expert."