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Forestry dept arrests priest, nun

Charge pair with killing 250 chicks while pruning a tree

August 16, 2012

A Catholic priest and a nun have spent more than a week in a northern Indian jail for violating India's wildlife act when they allegedly killed more than 250 white crane chicks while trimming a tree. The tree at Prabhat Tara Junior School had branched over a water tank and bird droppings had posed a serious health problem for the school’s more than 500 students, said Father Pius Menezes, diocesan director of social services. The birds, killed when the branches were felled, also dirtied the school premises and the school had difficulty in serving mid-day meals to the children, Fr. Menezes said. He insisted the school had no intention to kill the chicks. The Forest Department of Uttarakhand state arrested Fr. Simon D’Cunha, the school's manager, and Sr. Dina, a member of the Queens of the Apostles congregation and the school principal, on August 8. Fr. D’Cunha ordered the act but was not at the school when the tree branches were cut, Fr. Menezes said. “The two are responsible,” Amit Varma, Divisional Forest Officer, told Varma says the school should have taught their children how to protect wildlife by saving the chicks. He alleged that the school authorities had tried to cover up the matter instead of apologizing. “It is an unpardonable act,” he said. The school allegedly buried the chicks on the church premises. Verma said the nun broke down during interrogation and showed forest officials where the chicks were buried. He said the chicks would have flown away from the nests if the school had waited two more weeks. “If there was a hygiene problem there were many ways to save those chicks,” he said. The suspects are due to appear Friday for a bail hearing.
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