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By Steve Herman
New Delhi
15 December 2007

Indian police say they have apprehended two men caught on videotape shooting flamingos near Mumbai. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi that flamingo meat is selling cheaper than chicken in Mumbai markets. 

A Flock of flamingoes walk in a pond on the outskirts of Ahmadabad, India, 27 June 2007
A Flock of flamingoes walk in a pond on the outskirts of Ahmadabad, India, 27 June 2007
Birdwatchers had gone to the marshy mudflats near the port of Mumbai to videotape flamingos migrating for the winter.  They were horrified when they saw two men armed with an air gun bringing down the birds.

The wildlife enthusiasts caught the act on tape, and turned the evidence over to police, who say they tracked the hunters down.

Media reports say flamingo meat is on sale in Mumbai markets, and is a bargain compared to chicken.

That perplexes ecologist and field scientist J.K. Tiwari, who runs the Center for Desert and Ocean in the state of Gujarat, home to huge flocks of flamingos.  He questions why anyone would want to buy the meat of these birds, let alone eat it.

"One bird will never have more than one kilo of meat, even," said Tiwari. "They are just not a bulky bird. As a rule, all fish-eating or carnivore birds, the flesh of these birds is stinky. It never tastes good."

Flamingo is eaten in the Caribbean, and boiled flamingo was reported to be a delicacy of the ancient Roman aristocracy.  It is not, however, a traditional part of the Indian diet. 

Nonetheless, in Mumbai, an unblemished flamingo killed by air gun is reportedly fetching up to $12.

The two poachers were arraigned in court Thursday on charges of violating India's national wildlife protection act. They face a maximum of three years in prison.

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