Farmers in India are fighting tooth and nail to keep a scourge of opium-addicted parrots at bay. The birds have been causing headaches for poppy cultivators in the state of Madhya Pradesh, NDTV reports, pillaging their crops and gorging themselves on the precious narcotic. And their daily raids are starting to have a significant impact on the locals’ livelihood, prompting many people to call on the authorities for assistance in staving off the drug-addled birds.
"One poppy flower gives around 20 to 25 grams of opium. But a large group of parrots feed on these plants around 30 to 40 times a day and some even fly away with poppy pods,” said Nandkishore, a poppy farmer from the Neemuch district of central India. “This affects the produce. These opium-addicted parrots are wreaking havoc."
Nandkishore claims that his cries for help have thus far fallen on deaf ears, forcing him and other opium cultivators to take matters into their own hands. Farmers have reportedly been guarding their poppy crops at all hours day and night, but nothing appears to be stopping the junkie parakeets.
"We have tried making loud sounds and even use firecrackers to scare the birds. But nothing has helped," Nandkishore said. "We are already suffering because of uneven rain, and now this. Nobody is listening to our problems. Who will compensate for our losses?"
Video footage shows the wild parrots feverishly ripping into the poppies. Often the birds wait until the farmers cut the poppy pods to help them ripen, according to Earth.com, exposing latex that is rich in morphine and opium milk, while in other cases they simply cut the stalks of the plant themselves and make off with the whole pod in their clutches.
Opium is big business in Madhya Pradesh, with 38,000 of the 44,000 hectares of India’s licensed poppy cultivation taking place between the state and neighbouring Rajasthan. But Neemuch district isn’t the only place to be hit by waves of addicted parrots looking for their fix. Last year local media reported that the birds were raiding poppy farms in parts of Rajasthan, and in 2015 DNA India published an article about a similar problem in the districts of Chittorgarh and Pratapgarh.
In the latter case it was reported that the parrots were obviously becoming intoxicated from the poppies, often crashing into trees and branches or being found lying dazed in a nearby field after having indulged in the drug. Once the effects wore off the birds would fly away—only to return a short while later for yet another hit.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.