Poppy farmers in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are forced to guard their fields day and night in a desperate attempt to fend off large groups of opium-addicted parrots who get high off the narcotic effects of poppy seeds.
Scattered rains have already affected poppy production in Neemuch district, but farmers here say that the increasing number of opium-addicted parrots that pillage their crops on a daily basis are making things even worse.
Using loudspeakers and firecrackers to keep the birds at bay has failed and the farmers' appeals to local authorities have fallen of deaf ears, so people have no choice but to guard the poppy fields day and night. But even so, the birds still come to get their fix dozens of time a day.
"One poppy flower gives around 20-25 grams of opium. But a large group of parrots feed on these plants around 30-40 times a day and some even fly away with poppy pods. This affects the produce. These opium-addicted parrots are wreaking havoc," poppy farmer Nandkishore told reporters. "We have tried making loud sounds and even use firecrackers to scare the birds. But nothing has helped."
Video footage published by Zee News shows the parrots frantically ripping open the poppy pod to get to the seeds, and even chewing through the plant stalk and flying away with the whole pod to feast on it in nearby trees. The opium-addicted birds have reportedly learned how and when to swoop in on the poppy fields as not to attract the attention of the farmers.
Earth.com reports that the clever birds will sometimes wait for the farmers to cut the poppy pods open in order to help them ripen, which exposes latex that is rich in morphine.
Dr. R.S. Chundawat, an Indian opium specialist in Mandsaur, told Daily Mail that the narcotic in the poppy seeds has the same effect on parrots as coffee and green tea has on humans, giving them an almost instant buzz. Like humans, once the parrots experience this sensation, they quickly become addicted.
This isn't the first time Indian poppy farmers have had to deal with opium-addicted parrots. Last year, Indian media reported that such birds were raiding poppy fields in Rajasthan, and back in 2015, DNA India covered similar cases in Chittorgarh and Pratapgarh.