GUWAHATI, Oct 2 – The latest count of the city’s greater adjutant stork (hargila in Assamese) population, which has shown a declining trend over the past one decade, yielded a count of 258 this year – which is a bizarre departure from the decadal trend. The population of the greater adjutant stork was 288 (2002), 207 (2003), 233 (2004), 247 (2005), 167 (2006), 118 (2007), 149 in (2008), 147 (2009), 113 (2010) and 127 (2011).
The latest count covered 11 areas known as the stork’s roosting spots (currently or in the near past), while sighting results came from four places.
“The latest population count on September 30 this year showed a peculiar growth status (258), indicating that this large concentration in a smaller place could be due to paucity of food near the nesting sites or habitat loss on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra,” Moloy Baruah of Early Birds, which conducted the count said.
The population of the bird in the world is estimated to be around 900-1,000 with the Brahmaputra Valley alone accounting for over 750.
Disturbingly, Early Birds, during its census, found the roosting places in the city to have been almost wiped out due to rapid urbanisation.
A majority of the nests of the greater adjutant stork are located on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra, especially in areas like Mandakata and Suptaguri in North Guwahati and Dadara and Singimari on the Hajo Road.
“In recent times, these areas have witnessed rampant felling of trees, mainly due to fragmentation of human families. Tall trees in these areas once served as ideal places for building nests,” Baruah said.
Wildlife experts also point out that with the wetlands in and around the city being filled up for construction activities and widely encroached, the greater adjutant stork is being robbed of feeding ground for chicks.
A case in point is the Dabaka Beel at Bangara near LGB Airport which is adjacent to the Ramsar site, Deepor Beel. A lot of open-billed storks can be seen among other avian species in this wetland but the government authorities injudiciously decided to hand it over to a paramilitary force to raise its headquarters.
Similarly, the roosting ground behind the Ulubari market complex has almost been filled up by the Assam State Transport Corporation which had also allowed a few former employees to settle there. Local people from Ulubari area had earlier demanded of the DC, Kamrup (Metro) through a signature campaign to evict the encroachers and make it a garden with tall trees.
“Efforts by Early Birds and the State Forest Department to plant suitable trees for hargila had gone in vain as all saplings were uprooted by the miscreants in the past. We also demanded of the district administration to declare the area as reserve wetland on various occasions earlier so that protection can be assured,” Baruah said.
Early Birds had planted a few simul trees at both the Muslim graveyard and at the Girls’ Polytechnic which are showing good results.