CONSERVATION: Endangered species are animals and plants whose number in their natural habitat is so limited that they might get extinct if proper measures are not taken to save them. However, more often than not, it is lack of comprehensive information related to these species that makes planning their protection or conservation difficult. It is to resolve this basic issue that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is planning to satellite tag the endangered Lesser Floricans, birds endemic to Indian subcontinent, to trace their migration pattern before they fly off to some unknown destination by September end.
Few things known about the Lesser Florican
The Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indica) is a bird of the dry grasslands and open fields that prefers living in un-grazed fields with grass almost its own height of about 51 cm. The most notable feature of this beautiful black and white bird is the tuft of narrow up-curved black plumes projecting behind the head.
What is also an unusual trait is the way the male birds jump vertically up and down, especially during breeding season. Some males have been observed to jump 20 m above ground. It is said to warn off other males to stay away from the area where this particular bird has found its potential mate and temporary home. It is also a wooing tactic. Interestingly, looking after the eggs and the chicks is the female’s job, as the male birds do not stay with the females. The eggs are usually laid in a cluster of 4-5 lying around on the open ground, sometimes surrounded by tall grass.
The birds breed in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan moving there at the beginning of the monsoon in June-July. By end of September and beginning of October when the chicks are old enough they fly back and disperse to southern regions of the Indian subcontinent. But this is where information about their habitat and living habits comes to a dead end. No one knows for sure, where the birds disappear to during the non-breeding months and it is these ‘unknown’ homes of the birds that WII now plans to discover using satellite transmitters.
This first of its kind experiment is being planned to start with, at Sonkhliya in Ajmer, Rajasthan where about 200 birds can be spotted at the moment. For now the institute plans to tag 2 birds and observe their migration pattern. The transmitters will be tiny and fitted with batteries to last a couple of months. As more is known on the areas where the lesser Floricans fly to, the officials hope measures can be taken to protect these sites.
Being one of the rarest birds of the Indian subcontinent and one that has been listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red list of threatened species, the Lesser Florican is a species that needs such initiatives. Till now a major hurdle interfering with the protection of this bird has been the lack of coordination between states that harbour the bird. Furthermore, each state takes its own course of action in managing habitat, monitoring population etc. If the WII led experiment makes for the paucity of information, hopefully, a more national strategy instead of localised efforts can be made to save the birds from extinction.
More Related Stories,
Image via cc/Flickr by Koshy Koshy