Dr Asad Rahmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and member of National Board for Wildlife, was in Goa. During his presentation on threatened birds of India he revealed the need for bird reserves in the country besides discussing a new project dealing with vulture breeding
India, a country of rich biodiversity, has 39 tiger reserves with four in the pipeline. However, there are no reserves for the protection of birds. This was revealed by Dr Asad Rahmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), during a presentation on ‘Threatened Birds of India and their conservation priorities’ at the Goa Science Centre, Miramar, recently.
He said, “There are 39 tiger reserves in India with another four in pipeline. During the 12th Five Year Plan ` 1100 crores was allotted for this purpose. I am not against tiger reserves, and I am of the opinion that we need more. I am just saying why not Project Bustards? There are 15 critically endangered species of birds and eight of these do not occur in tiger reserves.”
Dr Rahmani was making a presentation on his latest book, ‘Threatened Birds of India and their conservation priorities’. He mentioned some grim realities of the bird species, the two main reasons for which are habitat destruction and hunting practice, especially in north eastern states of the country.
Development, too, is also taking toll on wildlife he maintained. “There are 130 new dams coming up in Arunachal Pradesh and 82 per cent of this land is under forest cover.” Sometimes neglecting a particular place could also lead to threat to the ecosystem.
“In Andaman and Nicobar Island many birds are under threat as they are endemic and as these places are out of sight they are out of mind. Also grasslands are one of the neglected biodiversities. Around 99 per cent is already lost and many birds are dependent on it,” said Dr Rahmani, who is also member of the National Board for Wildlife.
Giving statistical data he informed that there are 1300 species of birds in India out of which 15 are critically endangered. This means that they may become extinct in the next 10 years. The figure for endangered species is 15, vulnerable is 56 and near threatened is 66. Around 99 per cent of the vulture population has declined. Also the very famous migratory bird, Siberian Crane, was last seen in 2002. He further mentioned that the Government of India and BNHS are trying to revive their habitat as it is the main species of wetlands.
There is a silver lining, however. Sometimes species that were declared extinct were discovered later. The forest owlet, which was believed extinct for over 100 years, was found in the year 1996 in Maharashtra. Also the population of spot-billed pelican had a glaring increase due good community conservation efforts.
Lamenting more about bird conservation he highlighted that there are 446 Important Bird Areas (IBA) and nearly 200 are not officially protected, though many are protected by communities.
Dr Rahmani is currently working on breeding vultures at three different locations in the country along with MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forest). “The breeding centres are in the Corbett area, Assam and Central India. We are breeding the long-billed vulture, slender-billed vulture and white-backed vulture, which is being bred at every centre,” confirmed Dr Rahmani.
He further informed that as the breeding process is slow around 30 vultures will be released in the year 2014. “The breeding of vultures happens once a year as they have naturally low mortality. Today, their population is on the decline due to the drug diclofenac. It is extensively used on live stock. When vultures feed on carcasses of these animals it is fatal to them,” he pointed.
Dr Rahmani also stated that it is a tussle to ban this drug as it involves the Finance Ministry. “This drug is imported from China and then exported to Nepal from India,” he added.
He is hopeful that this captive breeding project will be a success.
Prior to his talk, Parag Rangnekar of Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN) - Goa Chapter gave a brief scenario about birding in Goa. “There are 461 species of birds found in Goa out of which 12 are threatened and 10 are endemic. The five Important Bird Areas are Bhagwan Mahaveer Wild Life Sanctuary (WLS), Cotigao WLS, Mhadei WLS, Carambolim Lake and Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary,” he said.
The event was organised by Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN) - Goa Chapter and Goa Science Centre, Miramar.