Storks face extinction in Assam

North Guwahati: Assam is a naturally well endowed with rich flora and fauna and a high number of endangered animals and birds, but environmentalists fear that the great adjutant stork, popularly known in local dialect as "Hargilla", is on the verge of extinction. The reasons are well known to animals lovers as the local people which includes loss of habitat due to increase in human habitat and a lack of awareness for the necessity of the giant bird.

Moloy Baruah of "Early Birds", an NGO engaged in research of what they call the "lost bird", say human beings are the greatest enemies of the stork as wanton destruction of trees where they nest is the single most reason for their rapid loss in numbers.

There is a foul smell in the surrounding areas where the storks nest and that is reason why the people settled in the nearby areas cut down the trees, says Baruah. "The birds normally nest in Simulu trees which are found mostly in North of Guwahati across river Brahmaputra particularly in the areas of Satgaon and Mandakatta", he says. .

According to the latest census carried out in and around the city on October 16 there are only 127 birds while its population year wise was–in 2002-288, 2003-203, 2004-233, 2005- 247, 2006- 167, 2007- 118, 2008-147 , 2009- 147 and 2010-113.

"The declining trend is dangerous as it suggests a negative signal for the future of the largest winged species of the region", says Baruah.

A study carried out by the Early Birds showed that the roosting place of the stork in and around the city have almost been wiped out due to urbanisation. They are mostly found in North Guwahati, as well as in Dadara and Singimari in Hajo but rapid felling of trees have contributed to the decline of population the birds.

Another reason is that the wetlands around the city as Deepor Beel,and the Dabaka Beel which houses a wide range of bird species including visitors from as far as Russia during the winter season, have fallen prey to wanton filling of earth for construction of houses.

"Flouting all norms builders and contractors have started construction right on the beel itself. A particular para military force had also recently acquired land besides the Deepor beel for building their headquarters with the matter nor being heard by the Gauhati high court", he says.

Another unique feature is that right in the heart of Guwahati city there was a traditional roosting place but that again has been destroyed. There was a roosting ground behind the Ulubari market complex which has been taken over by the state transport corporation but despite objection by environmentalists and local people the district administration failed to act, he says.

"We from the Early Birds have also urged the administration to declare the area as reserved wetland and met the then governor in 2008", he says.

The Early Birds had also planted Simulu trees at both the Muslim graveyard and Girls Polytechnic which were showing good results for nesting. Apart from these protected areas the Hargilla has been recorded from areas as Nagaon, Tezpur, Sibsagar and Dibrugarh besides Guwahati and their population in the entire state could be less then 700, says Baruah.

A resident of this sleepy township of North Guwahati admits that wanton destruction of trees have resulted in their near extinction. "For want of land people have cut down trees where the Hargilla nests and now we hardly find them around", says 80-year old Dhaniram Borkotoky, an old resident of the area.