Opium-Addicted Parrots Stealing From Poppy Fields, Farmers Say

By Victoria Kim 03/28/17

The birds reportedly “sleep for hours” after a fix, or sometimes fall to their death in a haze.


Flocks of opium-hungry parrots are descending on legal poppy fields in India, and frustrated farmers say the problem is only getting worse.

Legal cultivation of the opium poppy (papaver somniferum) in India is regulated by the government. Farmers grow and supply a set amount of the crop for export or other uses, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Parrots have been known to prey on opium crops since 2015, but since then it’s only gotten worse, according to the Daily Mail.

The birds descend on the opium poppies between March and April, when farmers slit open the flower pod so the plant’s sap can ooze out. The sap is later collected and then processed to make morphine, heroin, or other opioid-based drugs.

Video footage of the parrots on the Daily Mail show them feasting on the poppies. Some even fly away with a whole pod for themselves. The birds will reportedly “sleep for hours” after a fix, or sometimes fall to their death in a haze.

The Indian farmers have tried deterring the birds with loud noises like drums and firecrackers, but they keep coming back. “It is difficult to control these parrots,” said one farmer from the town of Neemuch, according to The Mirror. “We have to spend hours in our fields to shoo them away.”

Another farmer from Neemuch said the parrots chew up 10% of his annual yield. “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,” he said.

The parrots have even learned to move quietly as they descend on the poppies. “The moment you lower your guard the army of parrots silently swoop onto your field and take away the bulbs,” said the farmer.

Apparently parrots aren’t the only pests plaguing opium poppy farmers in India. Monkeys, rabbits, and blue bulls (a type of antelope) also love to feed on the plants, according to UNODC.

In Australia, which supplies about 50% of the world’s legally grown opium that’s used to make morphine and other painkillers, the wallaby is also known for ravaging opium crops.

The kangaroo-like marsupial would raid the crops, get “high as a kite” and go “around in circles,” according to a 2009 report by the BBC.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr