Thanks to steps taken by A.P. forest department and changing weather conditions, many species that had abandoned the region are back
Chances are that your casual photo shoot along the Srivari Mettu (the old route by steps from Tirupati to Tirumala) in Andhra Pradesh will capture some avian species that went missing a few years ago.
The birds are back due to the improved ecosystem, say ornithologists and officials of the forest department. They claim that protective measures and changing weather have brought back the birds which abandoned the forest, along with new ones from distant Western Ghats.
Black-hooded Oriole ( Oriolus xanthornus which belongs to the corvidae family), a common resident bird of Seshachalam forest in the Eastern Ghats, went missing over three years ago. But a few of them were captured in a bunch of photographs by The Hindu along the route to Tirumala.
Seen after 3 years
Besides India, the Black-hooded Oriole is seen in Srilanka and Indonesia. The Oriole, along with other species such as Golden Oriole, Black-naped Monarch and Indian Nightjar, had gone away from the region about three years ago due to increased red sanders felling and smuggling, and hostile weather conditions, according to Tirupati-based ornithologist, Karthik Sai.
“Many avian species disappeared a few years ago due to increased human activity, smuggling and fast changing weather conditions in the reserve forest. But, of late, we have seen the birds coming back due to favourable weather and ecological conditions. To our surprise, we see a bunch of Brahminy kites ( Haliastur indus, called Tella Garuda Pakshi in Telugu) in the Kalyani Dam area. This species is specific to the Western Ghats but has been sighted here, perhaps due to the improving habitat,” Mr. Karthik said.
Efforts at conservation
The efforts by the Forest Department in conserving the environment are yielding results, claimed the Deputy Conservator of Forests and Special Task Force for Red Sanders Protection, B.N.N. Murthy. “There has been a lot of improvement in wildlife management and conservation here. We are restoring more water bodies and ensuring the availability of food as part of our efforts. Several ground-nesting birds are protected through fire-lines (fire barriers to prevent forest fires), water holes and pits,” Mr. Murthy said.
Besides disturbance due to red sanders smuggling, many species, especially the ground-nesters, were threatened by people who consumed them, causing their mass migration or near-extinction, he said.
According to a research paper submitted in 2014 by the Bio Lab of Seshachalam Hills, Sri Venkateswara University and Forests, Wildlife Management Circle, Tirupati, Seshachalam forest is home to 215 species of birds, which belong to 45 families.
Some of the avian species such as Emerald Dove and Painted Spurfowl — described as “uncommon” by the researchers — are now frequently sighted along the old Tirumala steps route according to the locals. This apart, the beautiful Indian giant squirrel ( Ratufa indica ) is also a common sight on the other side of the forest in Tirumala.
The Seshachalam forest, one of the richest regions in terms of biodiversity, could have received much more protection and care but for the paucity of funds and lack of financial support. The funding for the entire region is approximately in the tune of Rs. 50 crore which is negligible according to a top forest department official.
“The Western Ghats alone get about Rs. 1,000 crore compared to the Rs. 200 crore overall budget for the protection of forests in our State (Andhra Pradesh). We need at least Rs. 500 crore for the protection of the Seshachalam forest. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, the State and the Central governments should focus more on this rare biosphere,” said the official.