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New vital bird habitat identified in India

By Alex Dale, 18 Nov 2016

To date, more than 12,000 Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) have been identified by BirdLife – making it the largest list of globally-important biodiverse sites in the world. And as we continue to perform vital research in remote, rugged areas, the number of identified IBAs will only continue to grow. The latest to be recognised is Papikonda National Park, a 1,012 sq km region of deep forested valleys and steep hills nestled in the Eastern Ghats, a mountain range that stretches across India’s eastern coast.

The IBA was identified during a Conservation Leadership Programme-funded study of mammals in the Eastern Ghats. The area’s tropical forests are a biodiversity hotspot, hosting many endangered plants and animals, but unfortunately it was unsafe for many years to conduct research in the area due to the presence of a local extreme political group Naxalites. However, this threat has recently decreased and the area is once again accessible for research.

The primary purpose of the study, which was undertaken by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), was to assess the effects that landscape change and habitat degradation are having on the mammals that live in the region. However, during the course of the project, ATREE also conducted a week-long intensive bird study alongside the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS, BirdLife in India). Numerous globally-threatened birds were spotted during this exercise, including Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea (VU), Yellow-throated bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus (VU), Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda (EN) and Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus (NT). Also, the Critically Endangered Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewetti was spotted near the park’s northern border. From this, the researchers were able to provide a site assessment of the national park and declare it an IBA. However, this fledgling IBA is already in danger, with the most ominous threats including the expansion of nearby commerical plantations, forest fires, hunting, mining and the ongoing construction of Indira Sagar Multipurpose Dam across the Godvari River, which runs close to the park’s eastern border.

 

Conservationists - the CLP is now accepting grant applications for 2017. The deadline for applications is 28th November.