Guwahati: Hargilla numbers on the rise in city
GUWAHATI: In what can be termed as good news for conservation of the Greater Adjutant Stork (popularly called Hargilla or Bortukula in Assamese), Guwahati recorded a higher number of individuals than last year.
A census carried out by Early Birds, an NGO working for conservation in the field of forest and wildlife, stated that as many as 220 individuals have been spotted in 11 places in the city. Moloy Baruah, Dr Monoranjan Choudhury, Debananda Barua, Pranjal Choudhury, Gautam Choudhury, Monorama Das, Monipadma Borthakur, MI Borboruah, Naba Talukdar, Bapan Talukdar, Amiya Das, Bhabesh Goswami and Rakash Kr Deka, a commerce student of Gauhati University, took part in the census.
As many as 185 storks were found in the 2017 census, according to the census report. Sightings of the Greater Adjutant storks have been made at Ulubari, the graveyard behind RG Baruah Stadium Complex near the Haji Musafir Khana, Gandhi Mandap, Seelsako Beel, North Guwahati and Doboka Beel at Pasonia Para, which is at a distance of 3 kilometres from LGB International Airport, among other places.
Increase in number of Hargillas a concern or a relief?
While it can be said that the increase in the numbers is a cause of joy for conservationists, concerns revolving around the health of the storks cannot be negated.
“Storks mainly feed on fish, crabs and other amphibians. Ever shrinking wetlands are forcing storks to change their eating habits. Finding no way out they feed on the dead and decayed. The maximum of its population is now seen on dumping zones. Food poisoning has been a concern, as death of storks recorded earlier is due their changing food habits. One of the interesting phenomena is that the birds are not present in the places where they had their roosting places earlier,” Early Bird President, Moloy Baruah told G Plus.
“Areas around Borchala-Soruchala Beel, areas between Gopinath Bordoloi Airport and the SOS Village School and the Machkhowa graveyard had lost the proud privilege of presence of this carrion eater scavenger bird. Scarcity of food and shelter are the main reason for the dwindling number of the species,” Baruah added.
The Early Bird NGO had planted Kadam and Ximolu plants at the graveyard present behind RG Baruah Stadium complex years ago. The storks have their nests and often rest there on the branches of the towering trees now.
“Time management is important to get the exact number of storks and to carry out a census. This year we started as early as 8 am. Around midday, storks fly away to resting places after feeding on the dead and decay. As many as 287 individuals were recorded sighted in 2002, the highest ever and 113 in 2010, the lowest so far,” Baruah said.
The Greater Adjutant Storks breed for 8 months, i.e. from September to March. In these months they are also engaged in courtship which is finding suitable partners to breed. However, the breeding season might vary depending on temperature variation or climate changes. Interestingly, storks don’t breed if the surroundings are not favorable to their appetite and their off-springs. Conservationists feel that compromise in abundance of foodlike frogs, small fishes, snails etc. would force storks to skip breeding.
Creating awareness on conservation of storks
Felling of trees has been a concern leading to a threat to conservation efforts of storks as those birds prefer towering trees for nest building. Trees besides beels (stagnant large water bodies) are also preferable places for storks to build nests. Increase in encroachment of beels has been a major concern for conservationists. It has been found that nesting places for the species are located at Hajo Road near Dodora and Singimari Village and at Mandakata and Suptaguri villages at North Guwahati.
However, even after great initiative by conservationists and wild life NGOs, Singhimari and adjacent village areas have witnessed rampant felling of trees due to fragmentation of families. Tall trees in these areas once served as ideal habitats for building nests. In 2006, Early Bird NGO found 11 nests at Rangmahal at North Guwahati in five trees and five nests in two trees at Mandakata. “Those trees have been completely wiped out in the above areas at least three years back. The same area had more than 50 nests till 1991-92,” Baruah said.
Unplanned city/outskirts development proving to be the bane
Green Oscars winner, environmentalist Purnima Barman who is also known for her conservation efforts of the Greater Adjutant Storks, blamed it on unplanned building constructions in and around the city as a threat to conservation of the Greater Adjutant Stork.
“There is simply no planning of building of constructions in and around the city. Towering trees are felled incessantly in name of buildings. They are expanding the city to the villages now. Villages in Assam have the highest density of Greater Adjutant Storks. If constructions are permitted in the countryside not only the storks but other species would be under threat too,” Barman told G Plus.
Barman is of the view that if census had been carried out in the non-breeding season an increase in number of the storks would have been noticed. “The storks are having breeding tendency at present. They are busy searching for mating partners and are busy breeding. However, it is a good sign that Early Bird has carried out a census,” she said.
Barman said that around 550-600 Greater Adjutant Storks can be found in the whole Kamrup district.