At least 47 peacocks were found dead on Saturday near a lake in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district, reported PTI. Villagers in Madurantakam found the carcasses, which were sent for post-mortem, said the police.

The police suspect the cause of death to be poisoning. S Arumugam, Range Officer (Madurai), said the birds could have been poisoned because they would eat the paddy grown by farmers. “Those who poisoned the peacocks will be arrested as these birds are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act,” he said. The peacock is India’s national bird and anyone found guilty of killing it can be jailed for up to seven years, he added.

Forest department officials were worried about the rising number of threats to the peacocks from poachers and farmers, said the police. The officials said that peacocks are found in large numbers in many parts of Madurai and in and around water sources. The number of peacocks at Tiruparankunram hills had declined sharply as the area has lost its natural green cover, said officials.