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Poacher turns saviour

Come winter and thousands of colourful migratory birds flock the lake at Chupi, a small hamlet here. For 36-year-old Sanjoy Singh winter was a time to earn some money as he had been a successful poacher. However, Mr Singh has now become a saviour of birds as he shoulders the mammoth task of preservation of the migratory birds and saving them from his former colleagues.

In 2007, a gang of poachers from Mayapur, in a trawler equipped with three 0.22 guns, had killed at least two dozen migratory ducks while Mr Singh had struggled to protect the birds earning him the title of "messiah for birds".

He also works as a guide to assist tourists who rush to the natural lake to have a glimpse of whistling teals that flock the area.

Today, Mr Singh was seen busy attending to an injured White Mix Stork he had rescued from the lake. He said: “The bird was unable to fly. I immediately picked it up and contacted Katwa Forest Range office but no one responded. I have taken the bird to my home and am treating it.”

The Burdwan DFO, Mr Gopal Kajuri, said: “There is dearth of infrastructure support and so the crisis could not be addressed.” Nearly 4,000 birds of 77 species have migrated to Chupi from Siberia, Tibet and Himalayas this year and Banabithi, an NGO formed by the youths of neighbouring Kasthashali village, are busy this time of the year. Mr Singh`s uncle, Mr Achintya Singh, is secretary of the NGO.

Mr Singh said: “I used to trap the birds with the help of pesticides. Sometimes I used shoot them.” Later, he would sell the birds in the local markets in Krishnagar and Mayapur in neighbouring Nadia.

Mr Singh came to know of the Literacy Mission in 2000. He said: “This changed my life. One evening my uncle brought a book on birds for me on how to protect them.”

Twelve youths, led by Mr Achintya, formed Banabithi to save the birds. A local said: “The lake has become grimy due to mushrooming of hyacinths and the birds have trouble finding food.”

This year Great Crested Grip, Red Crested Pilchard, Eurasian Wigan, Siberian Sail Duck have arrived in large numbers. Another NGO, Nature Mate, along with a financial agency, Magma, have also joined hands to help preserve the lake.

                                                     29th December, 2012, The Statesman, Purbasthali (Burdwan)