Official archery tournaments using traditional equipment will be different now on. Archers are not allowed to use the coveted arrows that use Monal pheasant feathers as fletches.
To save the endangered birds from being killed for their feathers, the association of indigenous games and sports had banned its use and will strictly monitor the same. This is a simple but logical rule. Simply put, we cannot kill birds, that too an endangered species, for sport.
The Monal pheasant (bjeda) is not the only bird hunted for feathers, its cousin, Satyr Tragopan (baup), another endangered species and the world’s 10th most beautiful bird, is also killed for its feathers. It is an archer’s pride to own a few pairs of arrows with pheasant feather fletches. And it is expensive, far costlier than the imported arrows. For it is rare, as rare as the birds.
For whatever reason, archers are convinced that arrows with pheasant feathers are better, with higher chances of hitting the target. While the belief may go back to the story of archery itself, the number of these birds is declining. Not long ago, monks of Phajoding, above Thimphu, discovered numerous traps to catch pheasants. They found six birds trapped. People are poaching because its feathers are valued.
Archery will not change without using the pheasant feathers. This is evident from the new plastic-fletched arrows fast becoming popular. These are cheaper and readily available. Those, who are good at archery, say there is no difference. This proves that shooting depends on skills and not feathers.
The ban, although planned years ago, could be placed only now. But it is not late. What we need now is strict implementation. Archers should cooperate and we hope they will, as it is not the farmer’s game alone. Those participating in the major tournaments are mostly the so-called educated ones, who understand the importance of conservation.
With awareness and education, the rule should slowly apply to all. There may be more people using it outside Thimphu. Forestry or environment inspectors could help by inspecting games in dzongkhags or even villages. Archery games are not difficult to spot.
However, while the rule is commended, there are others that the archery federation or the association could look into. Safety at archery games has always been an issue, and even with severe injuries or death cases, nothing concrete has come up.
One area that needs stringent rules is in the safety aspect. Every time there is a fatal accident, we see people express shock and concern, but it ends there. With the summer session of Parliament around the corner, it is a good time to look into this. We do not need an Act, but archery is killing people, including children.
There should be some rule in place, so that the national game is safe for archers, spectators and passersby.