Poachers are hunting migratory birds with “poison traps” in the char lands of the Padma river in Rajshahi and selling those in the city.
A large number of migratory birds come to the chars during winter every year and a group of poachers catch these birds mixing grains with deadly pesticides, according to locals and experts.
They use this method to avoid being caught by people and the administration, the sources claimed.
During a visit to the chars late last month, this correspondent saw the carcass of a Ruddy Shelduck in a char of the river near Khanpur. The bird's internal organs appeared to be gouged out by some wild animal.
“The dead bird was left there, because it was of no use to the poachers. Wild cats might have eaten up some of its organs,” said boatman Mosharraf Hossain.
Another local boatman Noor Islam told this paper that he had seen some guest birds mostly Ruddy Shelducks, locally known as Chokha-chokhi, lying dead in the chars at Majhardiar and Khanpur for the last few weeks.
He said he had also seen some people collecting the carcasses.
“I see dead birds early in the morning. But I don't see them later in the day, as some people in small fishing boats take them away,” said Noor Islam.
These birds are sold in the city for Tk 600 each, he said.
Prof AM Saleh Reza of Zoology department at Rajshahi University echoed the same.
“The birds are dying mainly because of the illegal poaching,” he told The Daily Star.
Prof Saleh, who has been researching on the migratory birds for over a decade, said due to increasing awareness, poachers are not able to hunt birds openly with guns or nets these days.
“But they become active as soon as the guest birds start to arrive,” he said.
He said poachers now use food grains mixed with poison to hunt the birds. As the birds die after eating the bird feed, poachers collect and sell those secretly in the city or elsewhere as slaughtered birds.
The professor suggested that the authorities collect the carcass of the birds and examine those in laboratories to find out the reason for their deaths.
Naimul Hasan, a member of an amateur bird watchers' team, said he had seen six dead Ruddy Shelducks on the chars near Majhardiar a week ago. He posted a photo of one dead bird on his Facebook account.
Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division) Mozammel Haque Shah Chowdhury said those eating the dead birds are at health risk.
He too blamed the use of insecticides and pesticides for the deaths of these birds.
Mozammel said a shortage of manpower was the reason why they could not strengthen vigilance against poaching.
However, he said they arrested one poacher and destroyed some hunting materials around two weeks ago.
Due to the illegal poaching, the number of migratory birds visiting the chars has dropped this year compared to that of last year, Prof Saleh observed.
He said he saw at least 2,000 Ruddy Shelducks at the Padma chars last year, while the number came down to around 500 this year.
He said bar-headed goose, common shelduck, black stork, and greylag goose, among others, come to the chars.