|This December, tribesmen of Kerala plan an expedition to the interiors of the forests in search of hornbill habitat, as part of a conservation programme.
They will cover Edamalayar, Nelliyampathy, and Parambikulam besides the Vazhachal-Chalakudy forest belt. This is for the first time that the hornbill monitoring programme is being extended to areas outside Vazhachal.
Mock monitoring programmes were carried out in the new areas, said K.H. Amita Bachan of the Western Ghats Hornbill Foundation.
These tribesmen are well trained in monitoring the species by the foundation. The programme will be implemented in association with the Kerala Forest Department.
“Twenty tribesmen are involved in the project covering the Vazhachal division, including Charppa and Sholayar forest” said V. Madhusoodanan, Range Officer, Vazhachal.
“Typically, the monitoring period starts in January and extends up to May. However, this year, the programme will begin in December considering the changes in climatic conditions” he said.
“During the observation programme, the team members will look for leftover food, faecal matter and other visible signs of presence of the birds in and around the trees. The sites will be observed at least once in a week and monitoring will last till the hatching of the eggs. The knowledge of the tribesmen regarding the nesting trees of the birds comes in handy for the programme” he added.
The tribal people had identified 57 nesting trees in Vazhachal during the survey conducted last year. Besides the Kadar tribesmen, Malaya tribesmen will participate in Parambikulam programme, he said.
The Vazhachal forest division is considered a significant hornbill habitat and the presence of four species, Great Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill and Malabar Grey Hornbill, were noted from here.
During the current survey, the tribesmen will also look for the presence of some important wildlife species like tiger and Lion-tailed macaque, said Dr. Bachan. The tribesmen are motivated to perambulate the known forest dwelling routes and watch for the known nesting trees. They add scientific inputs to the survey based on the knowledge acquired from the training programmes.
The distinctiveness of nesting trees, entry of females, hatching of chicks and existence of female inside the nests and threat factors were recorded.
The “presence of lone males, regurgitated seeds in fecal matter or seedlings of hornbill-preferred trees and presence of old feathers under nesting trees will also be monitored. Details regarding nesting trees like name, girth at breast height, the height of tree, height at the nest cavity, location of nest-tree, nature of vegetation and nature of terrain were also monitored in the earlier surveys,” according to a scientific paper published by Dr. Bachan.
Hornbills have always been considered important agents of pollination in tropical forests as they are generally frugivorous, arboreal, and secondary cavity-nesters. Their vulnerability is mainly because of loss of primary forest habitats due to various unhealthy practices such as deforestation, habitat alteration, raising of plantations, agriculture, shifting cultivation and logging of old growth trees.
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