Saturday, January 15, 2011


This year on the day of ‘Pitra Visarjan’ (farewell to souls) when the crows, dogs and other animals are fed to please the heaven bound ancestors, an acute shortage of these animals and birds was felt in Allahabad and Varanasi. If they are not available for feast, how can they perform their duty as scavengers. In the absence of scavengers like vultures, crows, dogs, bacteria, fungi and microbes, the world will be covered with dead animals, plants, garbage and filth. Scavengers recycle the garbage and change its form.

India is perhaps the only country where people knew the value of animal scavengers. Fish is considered auspicious, Varah is one of the incarnations, tortoise is worshipped, crow is remembered as ‘Kakbhushundi’, Sampati the vulture is admired for fighting Ravana (destroyer of nature) and for attempting to save Sita (daughter of earth), trees that consume carbondioxide are likened to Shiva who consumed poison to save the biosphere. We forget all this while using deadly insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers in the agricultural fields and poisonous drugs to animal bodies. Scientists believe that in less than 20 years about 90 percent population of vultures has disappeared from India because of poisonous drugs like ‘diclofenac’ in the carrions they eat. We can well imagine the fate of those who eat meat of animals injected with similar drugs.

It is not the drugs alone that killed all vultures. I enquired a few villagers about the places where vultures used to spend nights. The most favored habitat is a peepal tree. But the trees are disappearing and so are the vultures. The population of the other birds as well as the aquatic life is also in danger.

Fish in the river Gomti are dying en mass. Water cannot be purified without fish and tortoise. Earthworms convert garbage into manure, purify soil and are a friend of farmers. But, these too are uncomfortable in the soil saturated with insecticides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers.

Dead animals are peeled of in the open in countryside by contractors for skin and they leave the flesh to rot there. In the absence of vultures, the crows and dogs have to dispose off carrions but their capacity is limited. In the hill areas like Chilchakkar of Nainital, the vulture and kite population is still visible. It is desirable to save the genes of these endangered bird species in the gene-banks and also to establish hatcheries possibly in the hill areas so as to save Homo sapiens--

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