Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Rare bird escapes near extinction

 Nov 22, 2011:

While several species of birds have been poached to the point of extinction for various reasons, including their meat and feathers, the tiny, dark-feathered Edible Nest-Swiftlet is probably the only species that declined in population just to be a part of your yummy soup.

However, thanks to sustained conservation efforts by scientists at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology (SACON) and the forest department for the last several years who roped in the poachers themselves to protect the birds’ nests, the Edible Nest Swiftlet population has now steadily risen.

Edible Swiftlet’s nest built using its saliva is considered a delicacy in several countries as a result of which there has been widespread poaching of the birds in the Andamans for decades. The bird which was listed under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act has now been ‘conditionally delisted’ from the Schedule 1 status, thanks to its growing population following conservation efforts.

“It is a classic case study to prove that no conservation effort can be successful until the local community is roped in and explained of its benefits,” says Dr Shirish S. Manchi, scientist at SACON, who has been studying the birds for several years. “We have roped in nest collectors and motivated them to be nest protectors. It is these folks who watch the bird day and night to ensure that its nests do not get poached.”

While the sustained efforts made by conservationists and local tribes have helped, the nests built by these birds cannot be harvested and sold yet since the species is not removed from the Schedule – 1 of the Wild-life Act permanently.

Last year, there was a 40 per cent dip in the number of hatchlings when compared to the nests built during the period.

“When we roped in nest protectors for the project, we promised them that they could harvest the nests and sell for monetary benefits after a few years when the bird population stabilised.  Since that got delayed, many of the motivators are not interested in guarding the nests which has resulted in the dip,” said a senior scientist at SACON.

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