Once caged, now free: Tamil Nadu’s fascinating kili

The Tamil word ‘kili’ refers to a rose-ringed parakeet called ‘payantrangkili’ in Sri Lanka. They are also variously known as ‘anjugam’, ‘thathai’ and ‘killai’ in Tamil

Parrots are various, weighing between 10g to 4kg, found mostly in Australian and South African forests. But Tamil Nadu is home to rose-ringed parakeets

The parakeet is a small parrot with green plumage, red curved beak. Male parakeets have a black and pink ring around the neck, whereas the females don’t

Generally, seeds, fruits and flowers are parrots’ staple food. They can eat food using their legs, each of which has four claws, two protruding and two slanting backward

Parakeets are mentioned in Tamil Sangam literature and poetry, as well as in Hindu mythology — for instance, as an inseparable part of Goddess Meenakshi’s persona

Parakeets have an IQ of a four-year-old child and can repeat words uttered by humans. This trait, along with their bright colour, has always charmed humans

Unlike other birds, they do not build nests in tree hovels. Caged parakeets were once common in Tamil Nadu, and continue to be so in Tamil homes in Sri Lanka

But the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which has been amended seven times till now, views the caging of birds, including parakeets, as an offence

This has virtually stopped the practice of caging parakeets, especially by astrologers who used to earn a livelihood using caged parrots for making predictions

Generally, by law the onus of proving guilt of an accused lies on law enforcers. But the Wildlife Protection Act puts the onus on the accused to prove their innocence

The crackdown is aimed at protecting the species from extinction. Parakeets also figure on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Conservationist groups have shown more interest in protecting birds facing extinction, and have spread awareness on protecting biodiversity in Tamil Nadu

This has made the public also get involved in the parakeet census that is carried out from time to time

Thus, thousands of parrots have been released from captivity, as the axe has fallen on astrologers exploiting the belief that the birds have oracular powers

But the campaign must be intensified among people in rural parts of the state as well. They should be made aware that caging parrots is as illegal as stoning crows