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Deccan Herald » Spectrum » Detailed Story
Peacock Paradise
The peacock sanctuary in Bankapur is the only second sanctuary in the country that is exclusively engaged in the conservation and breeding of peacocks. Shyam Sundar Vattam acquaints us with the uniqueness of the sanctuary.

Ten-year-old Haveri has many distinct features. This district has the distinction of housing the maximum number of seed manufacturing units, it is known for its ‘cardamom’ garland and it is also a place that is actively involved in the country’s freedom movement. Apart from all these, the district has the rare distinction of housing a Black Buck Sanctuary and a Peacock Sanctuary, second only to the one in Uttaranchal.

Haveri district is bestowed with salubrious weather and almost all its taluks are blessed with sufficient rainfall, making the place green and thereby attracting a variety of flora and fauna. Pachyderms make flying visits to Hangal and its surrounding areas when the crops are ready for harvest. Black bucks are seen in plenty in Ranebennur and its surrounding areas because of thorny bushes and small hillocks. And peacocks are found in large numbers in Shiggaon and its adjoining areas. All these factors have made Haveri an important district as far as the wildlife wing of the Forest Department is concerned.

Understanding the great presence of peacocks in the region, the Government of India declared Bankapur as a peacock sanctuary on June 9, 2006. This is the second sanctuary in the country that is exclusively engaged in the conservation and breeding of peacocks. Any visitor to this sanctuary will not return without seeing a flock of peacock, our national bird, happily dancing in the sprawling sanctuary, without a care in the world. It is interesting to note that the land on which the sanctuary is situated does not belong to the Forest Department but to the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences. The Forest Department extends all possible help for the conservation and breeding of these birds.

This sanctuary is situated on 139 acres of land which has the remains of the historic Bankapur Fort. The high mound and deep trenches of the land have provided a perfect home for these birds. In fact, the proposal for the setting up of the peacock sanctuary was lying before the Central Government since 2003. The Wildlife Act allows the establishment of national parks in areas other than forest land with abundant flora and fauna, provided there is active involvement of the community in this endeavour. Since Bankapur fulfiled all these requirements, the Government lost no time in declaring it a peacock sanctuary.

The sanctuary is located on the cattle breeding farm which was set up way back in 1919 during the first world war period. The farm is located in 90 acres, out of the total 139 acres of the sanctuary. The Forest Department grows a variety of fodder that suits the peacock. Besides fodder, the Department also cultivates a peculiar variety of thorny bush that is ideal for peacock breeding. Peacocks choose to lay eggs amid these thorny bushes as even snakes cannot enter the thorny bushes to feed on eggs. Naturally, all these factors have proved perfect for these birds to make the farm their abode.

According to a rough estimate, there are more than 1,000 peacocks and peahen in the sanctuary. Also, minimal human intervention has helped in the breeding of these birds. They walk royally on the 4 km mound and also perch on green trees. The officials of the Department of Veterinary Sciences have shown great interest in the conservation of these birds, making it easy for the Forest Department to carry on with their job.

According to Mr Malavalli, assistant conservator of forests, Wildlife Division, Haveri, the population of peacocks in the Haveri region has increased over the last 4-5, thanks to copious rains and lush greenery. In fact, huge flocks of peacock are sighted in Byadagi and Hamsabhavi too. Peacocks are also found in irrigated farm houses in the district. In fact, peacocks are found in plenty in Savadatti of Belgaum district, because of which a reservoir has been christened ‘Navilutirtha’ dam, noted Mr Malavalli.

In spite of a large presence of peacocks in Bankapur, there is not a single instance of poaching so far for the simple reason that local people have developed a special bond with these birds and are totally against harming them.

With a view to improve this sanctuary, the Central Government has sought a detailed proposal from the State Government for its further development. Even the State is very keen on making Bankapur Sanctuary one of the major tourist attractions of North Karnataka. The Forest Department has planned developmental works in such a way that it does not harm the peacock habitat. Care has also been taken to keep human noise out of the birds’ reach as these birds are easily scared away by noise.

According to a forest officer, peacocks can fly up to 10 km everyday, but not in one stretch like the other birds. Usually, they venture out in the morning in search of food and return to its abode by sunset.
In fact, they like to live near human habitat and they are considered to be farmer-friendly as they feed on small insects and never destroy crops as some other birds do.

Cry fowl!
Recently, the people of Gadag district were shocked when they learnt that some miscreants had poisoned around 20-30 peacocks and peahen to death at a village in Laxmeshwar. This horrendous incident got widespread condemnation not only from nature lovers but also from villagers who consider these birds as ‘farmer’s friendly’ as they feed on insects that cause damage to the standing crop.
A similar incident had happened in Hubli taluk around one-and-a half years ago when around 15-20 peacocks and peahen were poisoned in a similar fashion. The modus operandi of miscreants was to lace seeds with poison and spread them on the border of fields where the birds frequent. The birds die immediately after eating the poisoned seeds.

The Forest Department was clueless about the motive behind the act. They were left wondering whether it was the act of some anti-social elements who kill the national bird for the sake of its feathers. The officials concerned could not do anything except book a case under the Wildlife Act. They could not pin the blame on villagers as they act as department staff in plain clothes, keeping track of the birds and taking care of them by providing them with food and shelter. In fact, villagers shed tears when they saw the bodies of these birds scattered everywhere in the field. It is high time the law against killing these birds is made stringent.

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