As you drive down Naraj Bridge – barely 15 km from Cuttack – towards Talapada village, you catch sight of multi-hued peacocks in a lush green forest. You find the avian species unfurling their tails to flaunt their proud and colourful plumage.
Not just one, you may find more than 50 creatures at the spot if you are patient enough. And then you suddenly realise you are standing in the middle of a forest which is a happy hunting ground for peacocks.
However, the spot is not even an average sanctuary. It was once a police firing range. Thanks to the relentless efforts of 77-year-old retired home guard Panu Behera, the range is now home to 54 peacocks with greenery around. Behera is popularly known in his village as the ‘peacock man.’
Behera was once the caretaker of this range. Says he: “I have been living in this area since 1989. It is close to my heart and the hut in the middle of the forest is my second home. I spend more than 12 hours a day at this hut to take care of my children (peacocks).”
Three injured peacocks from the Chandaka Forest Reserve had entered the range premises to seek shelter in 1999 when the state was hit hard by a super-cyclone. “My job was to keep people away from the 50-acre police firing range.