Forest officials of Unai range in Gujarat’s Tapi district stripped eight tribal youths for hunting birds such as sparrows, mynahs and pigeons on Tuesday, The Indian Express reported. They spent the night in detention at Unai Range forest office and were released on Wednesday after each of them paid a fine of Rs 1,000.

Forest officials claimed they received a complaint about villagers of Pati hunting birds and cooking the meat in the forest. While patrolling the forest on Tuesday night, officials detained eight youths and recovered a catapult and carcasses of pigeons, mynahs and sparrows from their bags. They were booked under the Wildlife Protection Act.

“The purpose of stripping them was to help them understand the importance of birds as [they are] also living beings and they should not be killed,” said Range Forest Officer Raghuveersingh Kosada.

Kosada said forest officials also warned the parents of those arrested and the chief of Pati village against hunting birds.

Village chief Dilkhush Gamit defended the youngsters, saying it was a tradition for young people in the village to “go into the forest, kill birds and cook a meal of it”. “Our village youngsters had not killed a peacock or any other animal,” said Gamit. “This kind of punishment of stripping them is new to us. We are illiterate and afraid of them [officials], so we cannot do anything against them.”

The father of one of those detained said the forest officials’ action was harsh. “To [strip] our children naked and detain them for whole night in the forest office is a harsh punishment,” he said. “Till now, no forest officer has resorted to such an action.”