Peacocks in Kerala

The sighting of a peafowl at Brunton Boatyard, a heritage lodge in Fort Kochi, despatched its employees right into a frisson of pleasure, one thing that they had not felt because the time the COVID -19 pandemic compelled visitors to depart and left the premises abandoned.

As the peafowl strutted round wanting curiously at itself in a life-size mirror in the foyer, Annie Mendez, Executive Housekeeper, caught the uncommon sighting on her telephone digital camera. The photograph on social media incurred a flurry of response of comparable sightings from totally different properties and gardens in Fort Kochi.

“We have been seeing these birds quite often in our premises for the past six months,” says the watchman at Bishop’s Palace, a two-acre wooded property and the 500-year-old seat of the Cochin Diocese. Hereabouts Kochi-based wildlife photographer and restaurateur Ramesh Menon managed to get some placing images.

“They are seen all around Kochi now,” says birder Vishnupriyan Kartha including that their rising presence in Kerala could point out one thing deeper and lasting.

At farms in Palakkad

However, for Palakkad-based farmer P Narayanan Unny — who runs Navara Eco Farm that produces the uncommon medicinal Navara rice, together with natural greens —the peafowl are extra of a menace. Initially the chook appeared in ones and twos however now arrive in flocks. “They destroy crops to a point that we don’t have plants left even for seeds.”

He first observed their rare appearances in 2006. By 2013, he says, their numbers had elevated drastically. “We grow a variety of vegetables, medicinal plants, cash crops and the GI-tagged navara rice. Our farming is organic and hence very safe for the birds. They get everything here and I guess that’s why they flock the farm.” Seven years in the past, when his crops have been being broken, he stored a big canine to fend them away. But the peafowl and the canine fashioned a novel compatibility. He then employed two watchmen to chase the birds away however “it resulted an increase in cost of production and proved unviable,” he explains.

Ten years in the past, BC Choudhary, Executive Trustee of the Wildlife Trust of India, carried out a survey on the standing of peafowl inhabitants in protected areas of India however didn’t discover any vital progress fee in inhabitants. “In recent times,” he says, “there have been complaints of crop damage by farmers in a couple of places in Tamil Nadu. But this Kerala incursion may be recent.”

With the elevated recognizing of peafowl in Kerala, environmentalists are questioning questions comparable to these: is Kerala getting drier, thus attracting peafowl that typically stay in semi arid deciduous landscapes? Are predatory jackals that management the peafowl inhabitants lacking? Will snakes in the peafowl’s new habitat be endangered? Will their proliferation have an effect on the pure birding scene of Kerala? Or are these sightings simply stray ones?

“Peafowl (Pavo Cristatus) are being sighted not simply in Kochi however in most elements of Kerala, particularly Palakkad, japanese slopes of Wayanad, Chinnar in Idukki district and Thenamala in Kollam distrcit,” says P.O. Nameer, Professor, Wildlife, Kerala Agriculture University, Thrissur, who carried out a examine together with Master Student at KAU, Sanjo Jose, on their elevated sightings final yr.

A 1933 survey

According to a 1933 examine by well-known ornithologist Dr Salim Ali at 19 areas in Kerala, the chook was discovered absent in the state. The first report of the Peafowl from Kerala was in 1963 from Peechi-Vazhani sanctuary. Field surveys carried out after 75 years from Dr Ali’s first go to revealed their presence in 10 out of 19 survey areas.

Nameer’s examine sees a connection between the shifting local weather patterns and the rising presence of those birds. “Currently, the potential distribution of Pavo Cristatus is proscribed to an space of 7221.84 km2 and the remaining 30496.14 km2 space was discovered unsuitable. According to it, we’ve got predicted their elevated inhabitants in 2050. Our speculation is that that Kerala will probably be drier in subsequent years maybe resulting from local weather change,” he says.

Nameer additionally refutes the cost that peafowl inhabitants is rising due to the dwindling variety of jackals. “We don’t have the baseline information of the previous for the numbers of jackals. This argument is used to counter the elevated numbers of untamed boars. Jackals feed on small mammals and birds. Peafowl is software giant a prey merchandise for the jackals. Jackals nevertheless, might be preying upon the eggs of the peafowls, although. However, taking into the truth that they do unfold now throughout the Kerala, primarily in the human dominated panorama, which additionally has a higher presence of the stray canines, which might be a possible predator of the Peafowls. But in spite of that the Peafowl inhabitants in the State is on the rise,’ says Nameer.

Human-peafowl battle

Meanwhile S Bharathidasan, founding father of Coimbatore-based NGO Arulagam that works in the direction of conservation of charismatic (peafowl) and non-charismatic species (crows), says, “We are discovering methods to minimise menace to peafowls in addition to the loss resulting from crop injury by the birds.” One of the NGO’s early student-teacher interventions was of inserting tape recorders in fields to chase away the birds. “This met with just 10 % success,” says Bharathidasan who’s now considering a cultural route to deal with the difficulty. “As the peacock is associated with Lord Muruga, we plan to appeal to the followers of the deity to buy crops from affected farmers. There are six prominent temples of Lord Muruga in Tamil Nadu. We are trying to link culture to conserve the national bird,” says Bharathidasan. He additionally factors out that through the years, peafowl have develop into more and more snug in human habitations. “The changing pattern of land use too could be a reason for their displacement. “They feel it is a safe place where they get their food and are not harmed,” he says.

Human-peafowl battle is rising, says Nameer, because the birds inflict vital injury on paddy crops, greens and even orchards in Kerala. The peafowl is a protected species beneath the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 so unlawful poaching for meat and feather shouldn’t be a problem right here.

Nameer, Bharathidasan and Choudhary all point out that seeds handled with pesticides are being fed to the birds in totally different elements of the nation.

Choudhary additionally factors out that their touristy worth is excessive and “the birds are treasured for the delight they offer to viewers.” He refers to 2 NGOs in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar that accumulate peafowl eggs, hatch the chicks and launch them in parks. He remembers that, whereas doing a national evaluation of peafowl, the birds have been thriving in the non-military safety camps alongside the western border and in defence cantonments. “I remember officers talking proudly of the beautiful plumage of the birds and the presence of almost a lakh of peafowls in some cantonments.”

Meanwhile Annie and the employees at Brunton Boatyard await the return of the chook and the joy it results in, one thing lacking throughout these lacklustre days of the pandemic.

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