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Habitat destruction blamed for disappearance of birds

Number of endangered species increases from 149 to 154

On last leg
Image Credit: Supplied picture
Spot billed pelican, an endangered bird species in India. The BNHS and Indian BirdConservation Network have been working on several critically endangered species.
Gulf News

Mumbai: India's list of threatened bird species has risen from 149 in 2008 to 154 as revealed by recent studies conducted by BirdLife International and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

The prime reason indicated for the fast disappearance of the species is destruction of habitat.

The alarming situation has compelled the BNHS to urge the government to start special programmes for the protection of birds and their habitats. The organisation dedicated to nature conservation has identified 466 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across country with 200 among these crucial bird habitats not being officially protected.

Not only should these areas be protected but the BNHS wants local communities to be involved in the conservation with a sustainable development model so that it becomes a win-win situation for all.

On the decline in bird numbers, BNHS director Dr Asad Rahmani says, "It is extremely alarming that almost 13 per cent of the world's birds are either critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable." He cites the Great slaty woodpecker as an addition from India into the vulnerable category, mainly due to habitat loss.

Common species

Dr Rahmani, also chairman of BirdLife Asia Council, says that even common species in India like Nilgiri blue robin and white-bellied blue robin have been included in the endangered category. The Himalayan quail and pink-headed duck are considered extinct in India since they have not been seen for nearly 100 years. But conservationists are optimistic there is still hope to rediscover these birds.

The BNHS and Indian Bird Conservation Network have been working on several critically endangered species like Bengal florican, Jerdon's courser, sociable lapwing, forest owlet and four species of vultures. Dr Rahmani himself has been studying the great Indian bustard for 30 years. This bird is likely to become critically endangered soon unless concrete steps are taken to protect its habitat.

Among Maharashtra's threatened bird list are White-rumped Vulture (in Mumbai), Great Indian bustard, painted stork, black-necked stork, sarus crane and lesser flamingo (in Mumbai, too).

Globally, the picture is no different. Alaotra grebe, a bird restricted to a tiny area of east Madagascar, has declined after carnivorous fish and nylon gill-nets were introduced to the lakes in which it lived.