The black-necked crane, the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir, is under threat from feral dogs that damage the bird eggs and chicks.
Basic knowledge about the importance and activities of Black-necked crane among people in the cold desert of Ladakh is so widespread that Chartses, local name for mating dance of this long-legged bird, is an important feature of every cultural programme or local festival. Ladakhis, particularly those living in Changthang region, consider black-necked crane not only culturally important, but a spiritual creature as well.
They believe that sighting the giant bird is a sign of good luck. Many monasteries in Ladakh have even paintings of black-necked crane along with other spiritual paintings.
“Black-necked crane is highly revered by the people of Ladakh. It is embedded in our culture and its dance (Chartses) is performed by Ladakhis in every cultural event and festival,” said Jigmat Takpa, former forest conservator of Ladakh.
“Its drawings are found in our monasteries as the bird is considered very auspicious and the symbol of Ladakh’s unique ecology. Ladakhis feel proud about the fact that its only breeding ground in India, is in Ladakh,” Takpa added.
Black-necked crane lives on high altitudes in Tibetan plateau, India and Bhutan, the only species of the crane family choosing such habitats. These birds build their nests in open environments which makes them vulnerable to predators. Both male and female are almost of similar size though the male is slightly bigger than the female. They have whitish bodies, long slender black legs and long black necks with a red crown adorning their heads.
According to IUCN, black-necked crane is classified as Vulnerable because it has a single small population that is in decline owing to the loss and degradation of wetlands, and changing agricultural practices in both its breeding and wintering grounds.
In Ladakh Himalayas, says WWF-India, the major threat to the successful breeding of black-necked crane is the damage caused to the eggs and chicks of the bird by feral dogs. According to WWF-India, “these dogs are owned both by armed forces as well as by the local nomads. Another threat to the bird is the loss of habitat.”
The canine hazard
The beautiful creature, also the state bird of mountainous state of Jammu & Kashmir, is under severe threat from human-kind’s trusted friends – dogs. “If there is any single biggest threat to the survival of black-necked crane these days, it is from the feral dogs,” said Takpa. “The dogs are even attacking the humans. How can these poor creatures escape from their wrath?”