Threatened bird species in India rise to 154

Threatened bird species in India rise to 154

A joint study by BirdLife International and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) attributes the rapid decline in the bird population to habitat destruction. "Destruction of habitat is the prime reason behind the fall in their numbers. According to studies, the condition of Great Slaty Woodpecker has deteriorated from 'Least Concern' to 'Vulnerable' while that of Rufous-backed Bunting has fallen from 'Vulnerable' to 'Endangered',"  BNHS director Asad Rahmani said here today.

"It is extremely alarming that almost 13 per cent of world's bird population is either 'critically endangered', 'endangered' or 'vulnerable'. Great Slaty Woodpecker is an addition from India into the 'vulnerable' category, primarily due to habitat loss," Rahmani said. "The fact that now 154 bird species from India are threatened, as against 149 in 2008, is an indicator of further deterioration of their living environment," he said.

In light of the alarming situation, the BNHS strongly urges the Government to start special programmes for protection of birds and their habitats, Rehmani said. BNHS has identified 466 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across India, which are crucial for bird habitats. "At present 200 among them are not officially protected. All such areas should be protected and local communities involved in conservation measures," he said.

Rahmani, who is also a member of the Global Council of BirdLife and Chairman of BirdLife Asia Council, said that supposedly common species in India like Nilgiri Blue Robin and White-bellied Blue Robin have been included in the endangered category. He added that Himalayan Quail and Pink-headed Duck are considered extinct in India since they have not been seen for nearly 100 years. "However, there is still hope to rediscover these birds, they have been included in the critically endangered category."

BNHS and IBCN (Indian Bird Conservation Network, set up by BNHS) have been working on several 'critically endangered' species like Bengal Florican, Jerdon's Courser, Sociable Lapwing, Forest Owlet and four species of vultures. Rahmani has been working on the Great Indian Bustard for 30 years. "This bird, one among the 16 endangered species in India, is very likely to become 'critically endangered' unless concrete steps are taken for protection of its habitat."

Globally, the picture is no different. BirdLife has announced extinction of Alaotra Grebe in the 2010 IUCN Red List update for birds. Alaotra Grebe was restricted to a tiny area of east Madagascar and its numbers declined rapidly after carnivorous fish and nylon gill-nets were introduced to the lakes in which it lived.

"Invasive alien species have caused extinction of bird species around the globe and remain one of the major threats to birds and other biodiversity," BirdLife Internationals Director of Science, Policy and Information, Leon Bennun said. Other bird species facing the treat of extinction globally include Zapata Rail, a wetland bird from Cuba that is now 'critically endangered', the Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew, which faces serious threat due to drainage of wetlands and pollution.

Bennun said Wattled Curassow and White-bellied Cinclodes from the Americas, Australian Painted Snipe and Kofiau Paradise-kingfisher from the Pacific, Black Crowned-crane and Ludwig's Bustard from Africa and Corsican Nuthatch from Europe are also facing threat. Only a few species like Azores Bullfinch from Europe and Yellow-eared Parrot from Columbia have shown increase in their numbers after they got strict protection, Rehmani said.

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