In Bastar, conservationists are trying to save Chhattisgarh’s state bird from extinction

The Kanger Valley Nationwide Park within the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh is a mysterious place dotted with caves, waterfalls and dense forests. The protected space notified in 1982 can also be well-known for the Bastar hill mynah (Gracula religiosa peninsularis), a species positioned below Schedule 1 (b) of the Wildlife Safety Act, 1972. The Chhattisgarh authorities declared it because the state hen in 2002.

The jet black colored hen mimics the human voice exceptionally effectively. For that reason, it’s usually present in cages and offered as pets available in the market. The distribution vary of the frequent hill mynah consists of India, China, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the South East Asian islands. There are 12 sub-species which can be very comparable however separated by their distribution vary, in keeping with a 2020 research. In India, 4 sub-species of the frequent hill mynah are discovered.

The Bastar hill mynah is endemic to the Kanger Valley Nationwide Park, the place the felling of a number of dry bushes for cultivation and developmental actions has put the species in peril. The frequent hill mynah nests in colonies, together with parrots and woodpeckers.

Holes made by woodpeckers in dry sal (Shorea robusta) bushes are most well-liked by the frequent hill mynah. In Bastar particularly, there are 11 resident woodpecker species that make holes frequently in a number of bushes. The frequent hill mynah surveys every gap after which chooses a nest after a number of visits.

“There are 14 websites throughout Kanger Valley the place the birds come for consuming fruits throughout the fruiting season and are noticed. My three-year commentary says that the birds want dry bushes, about 20 metres 25 metres in top, close to water sources. It wants this a lot top for safety causes,” Ravi Naidu of Conservation and Analysis of Wilderness Basis, a non-profit primarily based in Jagdalpur, Bastar, instructed Mongabay-India.

Naidu and Ameet Mandavia of Conservation and Analysis of Wilderness have studied the species intimately for some years. Other than deforestation and virtually zero patrolling in Kanger Valley as a result of Maoist presence, Mandavia knowledgeable that the hen can also be hunted by tribal individuals. “Bushes which assist the frequent hill mynah needs to be grown to assist its reducing inhabitants,” he mentioned. “Banyan bushes are appropriate for them as they bear fruits twice a yr. If a tree doesn’t have fruits, the mynah won’t sit in it.”

Is depend reducing?

The inhabitants of the frequent hill mynah in Chhattisgarh stands at 350 birds to 400 birds if scattered populations from different close by districts of Bastar are considered, in keeping with E-newsletter for Birdwatchers September 2017-October 2017. Although there isn’t a recorded knowledge, there have been stories of flocks disappearing.

In an unofficial depend by Conservation and Analysis of Wilderness Basis, 100 breeding pairs had been reported.

“A complete of 100 breeding pairs had been counted. Counting was on for 5 years until 2016 and the report was printed in 2017,” Mandavia added. “Clearly, the inhabitants has decreased. About 20 years in the past, a flock dimension of 200 birds to 300 birds was seen. Now recognizing even 5 to 6 birds in a flock is a most lucky factor.”

Kanger Valley Nationwide Park. Photograph credit score: Theasg sap/Wikimedia Commons

However it’s incorrect to infer that the inhabitants is reducing or growing as there’s a important native motion of the species, defined Bharos, co-author of the 2017 Inhabitants Evaluation And Standing Of Frequent Hill Myna research and a Raipur-based wildlife knowledgeable.

He added that the birds congregate wherever meals is accessible. Evaluation of their inhabitants shouldn’t be simple as they journey lengthy distances, typically even to the neighbouring state of Odisha searching for meals. “As soon as, within the Kanger Valley Nationwide Park, I counted 40 birds and so they had been converging and leaving on the identical time which made counting tough. I believe it is kind of static in Kanger Valley which is an efficient indication,” he mentioned.

Making an attempt captive breeding

A captive breeding experiment was initiated by the forest division within the early 2000s on the forest coaching college in Jagdalpur, however it didn’t have any success.

Speaking in regards to the venture, Vijaya Ratre, the director of Kanger Valley Nationwide Park, mentioned, “There’s a cage the place now we have now stored two birds (after the dying of birds throughout the captive breeding venture). It’s robust to establish the male and the feminine because the sexes would not have any distinguishing options for simple identification.”

Each sexes are visually comparable and may be recognized solely after plucking their feathers or once they mount one another throughout mating. “Captive breeding was considered so as to add on to the inhabitants however we couldn’t get success,” Ratre mentioned. “It’s a uncommon hen and its distribution is proscribed. It’s present in elements of Andhra and Odisha as effectively. In Chhattisgarh, it’s discovered within the Bastar area.”

Rahul Kaul, senior director on the Wildlife Belief of India, mentioned captive breeding is often carried out instead possibility to forestall the decline within the wild inhabitants. Nonetheless, the perfect place for restoration of a species is within the wild itself with slightly higher safety by the forest division, he mentioned.

“Captive breeding, and now conservation breeding, is a vital device, however solely when now we have understood {that a} explicit species has declined to sure ranges from the place its inhabitants must be constructed with some help,” he mentioned. “It’s also necessary to grasp the explanations behind the decline in numbers in order that that it may be corrected as effectively. So first, allow us to perceive the standing and distribution of the Bastar hill mynah earlier than efforts are made to breed it in captivity.”

New venture

Ratre, director of Kanger Valley Nationwide Park, knowledgeable that there’s an sufficient finances of roughly Rs 40 lakh out there with the forest division for the conservation of the frequent hill mynah. A brand new venture below this funding will probably be initiated below which, hen habitats in Kanger Valley will probably be surveyed and developed. The venture was handed final yr round October 2020-November 2020.

In keeping with Ratre, Conservation and Analysis of Wilderness Basis which has labored on the frequent hill mynah has been roped in for the venture.

“There will probably be area visits in February,” the forest officer instructed Mongabay-India. “For the revival of the hen inhabitants, the Conservation and Analysis of Wilderness Basis has recognized a number of areas and digital camera traps will probably be arrange inside Kanger Valley.”

“After the sector visits, it will likely be determined if captive breeding is possible as it’s a very shy hen,” the forest officer. “They could not breed if disturbed, as they’ve a selected selection of nests. So, we should see if we are able to go in for captive breeding or simply safety and monitoring of nests.”

Evaluation of the frequent hill mynah inhabitants shouldn’t be simple due to its motion. It travels lengthy distances searching for meals. Photograph credit score: Ravi Naidu

Ratre added that in-situ captive breeding is a good suggestion however efforts will probably be made in order to not deliver the birds exterior their pure habitats.

“We will attempt in-situ breeding websites inside Kanger Valley the place they are often of their pure environment,” Ratre mentioned. “For herbivores, it’s simple to breed them in captivity and launch them, however for some birds it’s a tough factor.”

Mandavia agrees that the birds won’t breed in captivity and below stress. “We need to assess the inhabitants,” Mandavia mentioned. “Conservation and Analysis of Wilderness Basis has submitted a proposal the place now we have additionally talked about nest safety for the birds in addition to planting of bushes. The nesting season will begin in April and Might.”

“Once they do nest for breeding, it’s the excellent time to present their nests safety,” Mandavia mentioned. “If the inhabitants needs to be elevated, the variety of fruit-bearing bushes should be elevated too.”

Naidu knowledgeable that the parakeet is a troublesome competitor of the Bastar hill mynah. When each the female and male birds exit for meals, of their absence parakeets occupy their nests made in holes. Naidu has made a design for 30 nesting holes for the birds in Kanger.

These need to be monitored constantly. “If the birds select even the nests, then our conservation plan will probably be profitable,” Naidu mentioned. “They don’t seem to be getting an sufficient variety of woodpecker holes made in dry bushes. Many sal bushes are being reduce down.”

Naidu noticed a flock of twenty-two birds between November 2020-December 2020 and January. His voice holds urgency when he says that if nothing is being executed, the birds will vanish.

This text first appeared on Mongabay.

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