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To protect national bird, govt to ban trade of peacock feathers

                                                                                            Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 6th May, 2013

Beautiful peacock feather handicraft or embroidery would soon be history with the government deciding to ban the trade of their feathers to protect the national bird, nearly five decades after it got the exclusive tag.

Although the government does not have data on the population of the national bird, its number is said to be dwindling because of its poaching for feathers, which fetch a good price in national and international markets.

The only stock-taking of peacock population in India done by World Wide Fund for nature in 1991 had revealed that India was left with only 50% of the total peacock population that existed at the time of Independence. Government officials and animal activists believe that the number has come down further since 1991 because of habitat loss and poaching.

Alarmed by the rising demand of feathers --- popularly known as morpankh --- having outstripped naturally shed feathers available, the environment ministry has decided for a complete clamp down on sale, purchase and transport of peacock feathers.

"A decision has been taken to ban trade of peacock feather," environment and forest minister Jayanthi Natarajan told HT.

Trade of naturally shed peacock feathers is allowed under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which although prohibits killing of the bird. The loophole in the law has been misused and had lead to rampant killing of the bird across India for highly lucrative feather business. With the limited staff, the forest departments have found it difficult to check their poaching.

A senior official said a decision has been taken to seek the Cabinet approval to amend the Act and make trade of body parts of peacocks an offence equivalent to punishment for killing other non-endangered species.

A person caught selling or purchasing peacock feathers or trophies could be jailed for up to two years under the amended law, officials said. However, possessing peacock feathers by citizens will not be a crime.

Poorva Joshipura, chief executive officer of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, India, welcomed the government move. "The large volume of feathers flooded in the market bust the myth that the feathers were naturally shed," she said, in a statement.