Greens pour scorn on Kaiga, but hornbills love it

Surprise sightings

Greens pour scorn on Kaiga,  but hornbills love it

The township of Kaiga nuclear power plant and four villages around it - Hartuga, Kuchegar, Virje, Kadra and Mallapur Shirve - have become must-see places as a large congregation of rare Great Pied Hornbills and Malabar Pied Hornbills are roosting here.

They have turned out be rare visual treats. Considering their numbers, the State government had declared a 52.5-sq km area as conservation reserve to protect four species of birds which are sighted here. But beyond this protected area, about 90 km away, the Kaiga township itself, for the first time, is witnessing a large number of these birds, which have arrived on a ‘monsoon’ visit. The Kaiga nuclear power plant, set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, has been springing several surprises these days with more wildlife being sighted there.

“We had never seen so many hornbills here, except one or two on rare occasions. The Kaiga nuclear power plant is dubbed as an enemy of the environment. But the arrival of birds belies this,” says K Puttaraju, naturalist, wildlife photographer and scientific officer in Kaiga.

Of the 10 species of hornbills, four of them - Great Pied Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey and Indian Grey - are native to Western Ghats. All these four species are seen here, said Puttaraju.

Among these, the Great Pied Hornbill and the Malabar Pied Hornbill are rarest and protected under the Wildlife Act (Schedule 1) and are also seen in good numbers now. The former, endemic to Western Ghats, is a red-listed species by Birdlife International. Puttaraju is now educating the local residents regarding the importance of these birds. The birds are largely endangered, due to rampant poaching for their beaks, feathers and meat. He says that the villagers are delighted with the birds.

The birds, according to ornithologists, prefer dense wooded forests to roost and thrive on fruits. Considering this, the State government, on August 7, 2008, had declared 100 acres area of Dandeli wood depot as Hornbill trail, which still draws hundreds of tourists.

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