Website by AQEEL FAROOQI  



*  *  * 


Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | November 7, 2001


Demoiselle cranes fly safely into India


Without any intention of pushing too far a point that has already been made in this column earlier (October 10th), I sincerely hope that it might still be considered judicious by readers if I were to take recourse to a follow-up on the fears that were expressed therein, about the safety of migratory birds, as they traversed through their war-confounded habitat in Afghanistan, and flew into safer climes in India.

Although fearing the worst for the birds in the war-zone, as they went about their natural migratory pattern of staging or wintering in the lakes of Afghanistan, I had nevertheless voiced a strong sense of optimism that their natural instincts would definitely teach them ways to circumvent the adversity brought upon them by the current turmoil.

On that point, there seems to be good news at hand. Ornithologists and amateur birdwatchers who have been keeping a close watch on the arrival of the migrating birds, have reported that despite the deafening sounds of aircraft and explosion of bombs on the flight path over Afghanistan, a great number of Demoiselle cranes have made their way into one their favourite places, the tiny village of Keechan, near the township of Phalodi in Rajasthan. This village lies at a peaceful location about 4 km inside from the main highway, and is equidistant from Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.

According to N. Shivakumar, an ornithologist who extensively toured the area recently, about 4000 cranes have arrived at Keechan by now, although their number is likely to swell to about 10,000 as newer arrivals make their way to rest and roost there for the winters. The reason why these demoiselles have consistently shown a marked preference for Keechan as a wintering area, lies in the fact that the villagers go to great lengths for providing ample safety and food to these winged visitors flying in from distant countries.

Nearly 500 kg of grain per day, paid for by donations from local people and keen visitors, is laid out for the birds. Two small organizations operated by the locals, are reportedly performing an efficient conservation that is almost akin to what the Vishnois are doing for the blackbuck. So protective are the villagers about the birds that they resent any intrusion by unruly tourists, although they happily allow birdwatchers and ornithologists free and unhindered access to the place.

Like any other committed wildlifer, Shivakumar surmises that there can be but two ways of looking at the present disturbed situation in Afghanistan. Either the number of demoiselle cranes coming to India could swell if they abandon their usual stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or else many would perish while attempting to fly to their respective wintering grounds.

As far as the actual ground situation in Afghanistan is concerned, Sudhir Vyas, an Indian official posted in Pakistan, and an avid birdwatcher, says that there is no specific information on what effect the bombing in Afghanistan has had, or may have on cranes migrating over that country.

But it would be worth considering that common cranes seem to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan along two major routes (i) the bulk from just under the Safed Koh range south of the Khyber, and then in a concentrated movement along the Kurram River valley till its junction with the Indus; and (ii) the rest over Quetta and areas immediately south of it, over the Afghanistan-Baluchistan border. The demoiselles also follow the same main routes but over a broader front. Some also enter from the north, over the Pamirs, then down into the Punjab through the Gilgit and Hunza valleys.

Vyas speculates that this last northern route would appear to be largely unaffected by the situation in Afghanistan. But birds coming in through the first route would have to cross the Hindu Kush ranges somewhere southwest of Kabul, and those taking the second route would presumably come around the Hindu Kush over Herat and then over the Kandahar desert. Both routes cross the main areas where the bombings are going on, and there would certainly be heavy disturbance.

However, there is one small ray of hope. If for some reason either military or diplomatic - the bombings were to be discontinued for even a month during ramadhan, it could give just a few days of peace to the demoiselles cranes, the common cranes as well as to the Siberian cranes, to come safely into our country.