Forest officer makes children give up slingshots used to hurt birds

“I kept that galor on my table for a day. I soon realised, confiscating the slingshot won’t help but persuasion might,” he said.

The slingshot, a small Y-shaped wood-and-elastic band children’s toy that can also be used as a lethal weapon, was at the centre of a recent campaign by an IFS officer to protect birds in the forests under his supervision.

In June, Anand Reddy, a 2018 batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, posted in Nashik district, managed to persuade children in 70 villages to surrender their slingshots after educating them about why birds should be protected.

His ‘Galor Samparan Abhiyan’, a culmination of efforts over 18 months — yielded a rich harvest of 600 slingshots or galor as it is known in Maharashtra. As they dropped off the slingshot with the nearest forest service officer, the children also took a pledge not to harm birds.

This is Reddy’s first posting. He said he was elated at being sent to Nashik in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot. But when Reddy joined as assistant conservator of Forests at Nashik west in October 2019, he hardly saw any birds. “In fact,” he said, “I spotted more birds in the cities than in the villages on my visits.”

The last thing he wanted was kids with slingshots driving them away. During a field visit, when he saw a child aiming at a bird on a tree with his slingshot, Reddy swiftly confiscated it.

“I kept that galor on my table for a day. I soon realised, confiscating the slingshot won’t help but persuasion might,” he said.

In an angry post on Twitter, Reddy shared a picture of the slingshot and wrote: “You see a cute bird. And you see a cute kid. Then you see the kid kill the bird with this slingshot.” Sharing his dilemma, he asked: “Will you punish the kid?”

He went on to explain how this children’s game was having a serious impact. “It leads to empty forests – no birds, no chirping, no singing. Only silence!”

Reddy told The Indian Express, “Punishing the child was not the solution. It is easy for children to make these slingshots and within one day they will have a new one.”

In the following months, Reddy prepared a plan, which included talking to the children and explaining to them how painful it would be for the bird to be hit with stone flying out from their galor. Step 2 was making them promise not to hurt a bird again. Finally, request them to voluntarily surrender their slingshot.

Reddy trained the staff and asked them to not punish the children or confiscate the slingshot. His team started with the villages in Peth Taluka and also involved village elders in the campaign.

Summing up the method simply as “winning their hearts”, he shared a video on Twitter of how the initiative turned into a movement.

The department plans to replicate the scheme in other talukas. Nashik is home to 250 species of birds. The area has one Ramsar site and three important bird areas.


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