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Thursday, October 28, 1999 Published at 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK


World: South Asia

Community protests at wildlife killing

The peacock is India's national bird and is a protected species

By Narayan Bareth in Jaipur

An animal-loving community in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan has gone on strike, a day after more than 20 gazelles and three peacocks were killed.

Authorities say an investigation into the incident has begun and, in preliminary action, five policemen have already been suspended.

The strike by the animal-loving Bishnoi community in Rajasthan's Churu district went off peacefully, according to the police.

The Bishnois surrounded the local police station on Wednesday, after more than 20 Indian gazelles and three peacocks were found dead near the village of Sansatwar in Rajasthan's Churu district.

Officials said the policemen were suspended for their alleged negligence in failing to prevent the killings.

Police say they suspect a local community, the Bavarias, to be responsible.

An environmentalist and a member of the state's wildlife advisory board, Harsh Vardhan, condemned the incident describing the killing as "very shameful".

Protected species

The gazelle, which is listed as a state animal, and the peacock - India's national bird - are both protected under the National Wildlife Act with stiff penalties for those who violate the law.

In the past few years, nearly 50 black buck deer, another protected species, have been killed in the same area.

Last year, the alleged killing of some black bucks by an Indian movie star during a film shoot, led to a violent protest and legal action by environmentalists.

They have since called for the boycott of the film which is due to be released soon.

The Bishnoi community is known for its love of nature. They have traditionally opposed the hunting and killing of animals, and many Bishnois have given their lives to save animals over hundreds of years.

Environmentalists say it is ironic that, despite a long historical campaign in the region, the killing of animals still goes on.



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