Confusion reigns over the population of the threatened species of Baaj (Eastern goshawk), which holds significance for its association with the 10th Sikh guru. With no census on the bird available with the Punjab Government, the bird is on the verge of extinction.
Sources in the state Wildlife Department said a notification issued by the state government in 1989 mentioned that the State Bird of Punjab is Baaj. However, this bird seems to be sliding towards extinction and the state government has “failed” to either carry out a census or raise some breeding ground for it.
Talking to TNS, state Chief Wildlife Warden Gurbaj Singh said: “There is no data available on its population with us, as it is now spotted very rarely in the state. Though I cannot say if it was given the status of a State Bird due to its association with the 10th Sikh guru, it is impossible to identify this bird as both male and female goshawks look same and there is no arrangement for its breeding.”
Karamjit Singh Jattana, a former Divisional Forest Officer (Patiala), said the Punjab Government had failed to order any study to associate Baaj with the 10th Sikh guru or initiate steps to protect it from extinction. “Instead, it accepted a Central government grant for the breeding of falcon and ignored Baaj, which is almost extinct,” he added.
State Minister for Wildlife and Forests Tikshan Sud said he was not sure if there was a difference between a falcon and eastern goshawk but officials of the Wildlife Department must clarify it. “However, I will ask officials to conduct a detailed study on this topic and if Baaj is extinct or needs breeding ground, facilities should be made available,” he added.