Guwahati: In a unique barter, a group of veterinarians in Guwahati in the north eastern state of Assam offered their services of taking care of the livestock of villagers in return for villagers’ offering protection to the tall trees that are perfect breeding grounds of the greater adjutant stork.
Concerned over the rapid decline in breeding grounds of greater adjutant storks in the city, an initiative was taken by Moloy Baruah, in conjunction with Wildlife Trust of India to strike this deal with the villagers of Suktaguri in North Guwahati .
Suktaguri has been identified as the ideal breeding place of greater adjutant storks. However unabated felling of trees is posing a threat to the avian species, whose population in 2003 was around 280. Casualties also rise because of electrocution and poaching.
Few breeding pairs and small populations still survive in Assam particularly in the Brahmaputra valley. Guwahati city has largest concentration of the storks among all places in the state. There are around 150 to 175 storks around the city depending upon the garbage where they are chiefly scavengers. There are few nesting places around the city. Care needs to be taken because the total population in Assam alone is around 800 with a slightly declining trend.
The Rapid Action Project (RAP) aimed at conservation of greater adjutant storks in and around Guwahati. The project, which started in the first week of July, 2004 will continue for a year.
“The project aims to halt continuous shrinkage of foraging grounds of the birds in and around Guwahati city and its suburbs”, said Baruah, the implementer of the RAP. “With the protection of the nesting areas, the population growth may sustain and save this scavenger bird which has a great role in cities like Guwahati where garbage is still dumped in selected places without any scientific disposal method,” added Baruah.
Another threat to the greater adjutant storks identified by Baruah is negligent driving by garbage truck divers at dumping sites.
Spotting hargilla ( as the storks are locally known) in around the entire city, where they are found in roosting places, counting the exact numbers and monitoring the places on a periodical basis for one year are part of the activities of this project. Work will be done towards the protection of this urban wild life species at the newly developed garbage dumping site by the Municipal Corporation at Barbari, as there are reports of sporadic poaching by the tribal people living nearby. Liaison meetings with the local people, school students, different bazaar committees, the police, the civil Authorities will be arranged in areas where the birds are found.
As per the recent reports sign boards are being displayed at the roosting and breeding sites with the message that it is an endangered bird. As a long term conservation action, trees are being planted with the aim of facilitating their nesting . Co-operation from the State Electricity Board is being sought so that alternative means can be provided in those areas where accidents due to electrocution are frequent and with the help of the government the project is planning to declare few wetlands as protected, as this bird is working as a scavenger in the absence of vultures which have become rare now.
“This project aims towards greater public awareness and protection of these birds and we have so far got a positive response from the villagers of Suktaguri”, mentioned Baruah.
The Greater Adjutant Stork is the most endangered stork of the world as it stands today. The IUCN, International Wetland Research Bureau (IWRB) Specialist Group on Stork, Ibis and Spoonbill (SIS) and the International Council of Bird Preservation (ICBP) have all declared the Greater Adjutant Stork as first priority species for conservation .
The stork is a bird that has for ages symbolized birth. The project to save this particular species of stork will possibly ensure better survival prospects for the birds and hopefully help conserve the greater adjutant storks of this region.