Indian canal changes course for rare bird
In the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, though, a court has halted construction of a major water canal to save one of the world’s rarest birds.
Only about 50 Jerdon’s coursers (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus) are believed to be left in the wild and are found in scrub-jungle habitat in the Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary, which the Andhra Pradesh government created to protect the remaining birds.
The Teluga Ganga Canal, being built to bring water to Chennai, India’s fourth-largest city, will now be diverted around the sanctuary, rather than running straight through as originally planned. The Supreme Court halted construction because of the threat to the birds and local authorities will compensate local villagers for the loss of extra land.
Dr Panchapakesan Jeganathan, a scientist at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), said: “This bird is more threatened than the tiger and very few people have ever seen it.
“People thought the Jerdon’s courser was a block to progress but are now benefiting from the canal’s realignment because their compensation is generous and the only land they are losing is difficult to farm,” he said.
Officials have agreed in principle to buy 3,000 acres of scrub forest between the new canal route and the sanctuary. The state’s forest department will manage that land to protect and enlarge the bird’s habitat.
The BNHS and Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which both pressed the Supreme Court to order a halt to the canal, have also been involved in survey work to determine the bird’s true range.
“It is crucial we find other sites hosting Jerdon’s coursers and encourage both politicians and the people living nearby to support that work,” said Ian Barber, RSPB’s Asia officer.
With many species being driven towards extinction by human activities, perhaps the world needs to see more examples such as this Indian bird?
(Picture credit: Simon Wootton, RSPB)