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New location discovered for rare Forest Owlet New location discovered for rare Forest Owlet

Jan-14-2015 | 0 Comments

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PUNE: A survey by city-based Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS) in the forest areas of Madhya Pradesh has found a new location for the critically endangered Forest Owlet in the Betul district of the state.

"A research team from the wildlife society was carrying out a three-day survey in the area. On the last day of the survey, research biologist Prasanna NS located a Spotted Owlet at a location where the bird has not been spotted so far," said Prachi Mehta, executive director (research) of the society.

The society is carrying out a long-term ecological study on the Forest Owlet in the Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh. Betul is the adjoining district located to the southeast of Khandwa.

Mehta said that similar surveys in the same area in 2005 and in May 2014 had not shown any results. Repeating the survey in the winter season may have been the reason for the successful findings.

"It was on the insistence of Betul district forest official A K Nagar that we started the survey. Trees in the area were going to be felled as a part of scientific forest management and he wanted us to determine whether it was a habitat for the bird so that the foresters could take additional precautions," Mehta said.

The new discovery has raised some interesting questions. For instance, the new location is close to the existing Forest Owlet habitat in Khandwa, but is also not far from the Melghat tiger reserve, which is home to the largest population of the bird. Little is known about the dispersal pattern of these birds and it remains to be seen whether there are any connections, Mehta said.

In October last year, ornithologists Sunil Laad and Rohidas Dagale had sighted the bird in the Tansa wildlife sanctuary - the first time it was spotted in the Western Ghats.

"These sightings indicate that the Forest Owlet is surviving in India maybe in discontinuous populations and under challenging conditions," Mehta said.

BOX: Survey in Toranmal, Yawal

The state forest department has commissioned a study on the status of the Forest Owlet in the wildlife sanctuaries in Toranmal and Yawal, said V K Sinha, additional principal chief conservator of forest.

"The Forest Owlet is a rare bird. We wanted a systematic survey of the bird carried out in these two areas," Sinha said, adding that the department would fund the project.

Prachi Mehta, executive director (research) of the Wildlife Research and Conservation Society, had submitted a proposal for such a survey to be carried out in Toranmal, but she has been asked to extend the study to Yawal as well. So far a decision on whether it would be extended to the Tansa wildlife sanctuary, which has recently emerged as a habitat for the bird, has not been taken, Sinha added.

"Experts from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have conducted research on the Forest Owlet in Toranmal before, and concerns were raised about the habitat deteriorating. There is only one report of a Forest Owlet sighting in Yawal which has not been confirmed again. It will be interesting to see the status of the bird there," Mehta said.


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