At least 200 egrets, including newborn chicks, died after a municipal board in Assam chopped down trees and destroyed nests following a bizarre claim that bird droppings may lead to the spread of coronavirus.
Cattle egrets are small-built herons that are protected under the Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asked state Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya to look into the incident that took place yesterday in Tangla town of Udalguri district. Following this, the forest minister ordered Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Amit Sahai to inquire into the matter and submit a report, who then directed District Forest Officer Dhansiri to take action.
On June 8, the Tangla municipality board issued a notice to local residents, saying that a bamboo grove in the area that has been home to over 300 cattle egrets needed to be cleared. Cattle egrets are a kind of heron, white in colour.
The notice by the civic body said droppings by the birds has led to an "unhealthy" atmosphere in the area and claimed that this may result in the spread of Covid.
When the residents didn't take any action as per the directions in the notice, the municipality board got the trees chopped down yesterday, destroying the nests.
The birds were put in cartons to be shifted as per directions of experts, but many of them died.
Visuals showed the birds and hatchlings calling out from inside the cartons. In one video, all birds except one lie motionless. Many out of the 300 cattle egrets were hatchlings, who cannot fly. The Chief Minister shared one of the videos on Twitter and asked the forest minister to enquire into the incident.
Notably, Udalguri is among districts in Assam that have reported a cumulative case count of less than 1,000. The district has so far reported a total of 758 Covid cases and has 91 active cases at present, as per state data.