Poppy farmers in India are encountering a new type of pest while cultivating this seasons crops. Problems like inconsistent rainfall are to be expected but flocks of persistent parrots – likely addicted to opium – are raiding the farmers poppy fields, helping themselves as many as 40 times a day to get their fix.
According to NDTV, opium addicted birds have become a daily menace in the poppy fields, causing farmers to sustain financial losses which are quickly adding up. The birds tear into the unripe poppy pods to feed on the opium-rich milk which brings feelings of euphoria and relaxation when consumed.
Each poppy flower yields 20-25 grams of opium which contains the analgesic alkaloid morphine, which is processed chemically to produce heroin and other synthetic opioids for both illegal and medicinal uses.
The bird raids leave the pilfering parrots visibly intoxicated. According to a 2018 article in DNA India, the opium-munching birds were observed crashing into tree branches and “lying in the fields in a daze,” only to fly off again when the narcotic effects wore off.
Neemuch: Opium farmers complain that the parrots in the area have been destroying their crops;a farmer says,”we beat drums & burst firecrackers to scare them away. We keep a watch on them in night as well. Don’t know if they’ve got addicted to it or something else”.#MadhyaPradesh pic.twitter.com/Z3G4Z3oxWF
— ANI (@ANI) February 25, 2019
“The parrots wait until farmers slit open the opium poppy pods in order to ripen them, at which point they begin their attacks. In 2017 the government’s narcotics department issued a warning about the drug-addicted birds, after opium theft started occurring in several different regions,” IFLScience reported.
“Usually, the parrots would make sound when in a group,” a cultivator told British national tabloid The Mirror in 2017. “But these birds have become so smart that they don’t make any noise when they swoop on the fields. The birds start chirping when they fly away with opium pods.
“We have tried every trick possible to keep the birds at bay but these addicts keep coming back even at the risk of their life,” the farmer concluded.