As nature lovers in the region appealed to local fishermen not to use poison to kill fish and migratory birds in the Loktak lake, those eking out a living by fishing in the freshwater lake denied any wrongdoing.
They instead blamed hardcore poachers and those belonging to rich families for trapping or shooting avian fauna and other wildlife in the area.
The fishermen also denied that they polluted the largest freshwater body in the north-east region and pointed out that 30 streams carried rubbish into it.
“A wrong impression has been created that fishermen kill migratory birds by using poison or snaring them. For generations, this lake has been a source of livelihood for us. Since the times of our forefathers, we have done nothing to harm nature,” fisherman Lukhoi told.
Another fisherman Ahanjao said,” People from rich families often come to the lake with licensed guns and shoot birds. There is nobody to restrain them.”
He said he retrieved two dead migratory birds from the lake on Monday, which were handed over to wildlife officials on Tuesday.
On Monday, birdwatcher Elangbam Sarat rescued a migratory duck from a bird hunter by paying him Rs.200. It will be sent to the zoological garden in Imphal.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday assured that the Centre will extend all help to protect the brow antlered deer that inhabit the 40 square km Keibul Lamjao national park, a part of the Loktak lake, since there were only 204 such animals left in the wild.
The minister for forest, environment and climate change visited the national park on January 9.
Meanwhile, wildlife staff and other officials are facing an uphill task in protecting the avian and other fauna in the area due to a number of reasons.
The national park is said to be run on a shoestring budget. The cash-strapped wildlife wing of the state forest department does not even have funds to fence off areas rich in fauna or construct a drain etc.
The Loktak Development Authority burnt most of the shacks belonging to fishermen on the floating biomass in the Loktak lake, but over 300 huts have come up again.
Asked to explain the sale of live and dead birds in villages on the fringes of the national park, a wildlife official said: “We have a skeletal and unarmed wildlife staff at the national park.
“Hardcore poachers and bird hunters are armed and do not care about wildlife guards. Likewise, sale of bush meat in all hill districts cannot be stopped as it will be against tribal food habits.”