As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday, 17 October 2016

‘India will lose all Great Indian Bustards by 2020’

Manka Behl | Updated: Oct 2, 2016, 12.34 AM IST
Nagpur: Bikram Grewal spent over five years to come up with a book weighing about four kilograms, presenting some 1300 odd species of birds found in India and neighbouring nations. But the conservationist fears for his avian friends, many of whom are facing extinction in our country.

When it comes to bird conservation, Grewal feels
nothing has changed for the good and that all bird species are endangered. “We are losing everywhere, population of common urban birds, migratory birds and rare birds have only witnessed a decline in India,” says the eminent birdwatcher. Without beating around the bush, he blames complete lack of political will. “We don’t need high-level science to save birds. Just had to keep their habitat sacrosanct but we couldn’t.”

This is exactly what happened with the Great Indian
Bustard (GIB), he says. “There are hardly 50 of them left in the entire country. 90% of the species are in Rajasthan, where its habitat is being drastically destroyed. By 2020, GIBs will be extinct,” adds Grewal. Though the situation is critical now, he adds that a lot can still be done to save the remaining population of the bird. “When villages can be relocated to protect tigers, similar efforts can also be taken for prominent bird habitats,” he says.

Is bird conservation being neglected amid tiger-centric conservation initiatives? “It has always been like this. There are hardly one or two bird sanctuaries in India. Laws exist but afforestation continues to take place on a large scale, taking away bird habitats. Conservation is better in Bhutan and
Sri Lanka. Here, funds are never allotted to birds,” Grewal says.

Bird population in urban areas is becoming homeless for the same reason. The birdwatcher says, “People keep saying we don’t see much of hornbills. But we are rapidly cutting tall and big trees which
home their nests. We are rapidly losing parks, gardens and green cover. There will soon come a time when we will spot birds only near army cantonment areas having some trees.”

Decline in the numbers of migratory birds is again bad news. “Our rivers are choked, some have dried out and some have become toxic. This is why not many migratory birds are seen today, a sign of an unhealthy biodiversity,” he says.

Dismal research on birds and
no follow-ups of whatever little has been done are also enemies of our winged friends. “After discovering that widespread use of diclofenac was linked to death of vultures, it took eight years to ban the deadly drug. We lost 50% vultures in one year. So even if the numbers are going up now, the rise is very slow,” says Grewal. He adds that scientific studies and surveys are needed along with activities like birdwatching to shift the focus on conserving birds. 

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