The Bold Voice of J&K

J -K’s birds in turmoil

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Mahesh Kaul  

It brings to fore the lack of will on the part of the policy makers and the lack of sensitivity of the common people who have taken the bio diversity for granted and are contributing to the vandalisation and extinction of the habitats of the rare species of birds and their annihilation. To further reinforce their concern they suggest in their recommendation that “As it is a scarce migrant in India, not much can be done here except prevention of poaching and poisoning of all waterfowl. The IBAs and Pas where this bird has been reported should be better protected, particularly their water quality.”(pp.48)
Third section ,Vulnerable is quite large as it includes various species that include Western Tragopan,Cheer Pheasant, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Marbled Duck,Pallas’s Fish-eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Eastern Imperial eagle,Sarus Crane, Black-necked Crane, Pale -Backed  or Yellow-eyed Pigeon and Kashmir Flycatcher. While analyzing these species in terms of threats to their existence they have divided their study and research into the following heads:
o    Field Characters
o    Ecology
o    Threats
o    Conservation  measures underway
For every species they have underlined recommendations besides the data based on scientific methods and field survey  made rich by observations over the period of time .It speaks volumes about the involvement and dedication of the authors who are well trained professionals in their respective fields.
The fourth section, Near Threatened is another longer section that deals with very important species of birds that frequent the state of Jammu & Kashmir making the avifauna and biodiversity of the state rich but due to conservation and survival threats cause a serious concern among the ornithologists and people concerned with the ecological balance. The various species of birds that have included in this section and discussed in detail include Ferruginous Duck, Black-necked Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Cinereous Vulture, European Roller, Long-billed Bush-warbler, and Tytler’s Leaf-warbler.
These species have been analysed in terms of threats as employed in the previous section and after giving description of each of these species they have given recommendations to implement the conservation techniques to save them from extinction.
The last section titled Marginal includes the following species that have been studies as per the standardized format adopted in every section: Red-headed of King Vulture, Painted Stork, Oriental darter, Red Kite, pallid harrier, Little Bustard. References have been included at the end of the book besides the index of the common names. The book has been published by BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) and printed by Oxford University Press.
Authors have dedicated this book based on field studies  to Dato Loke Wan Tho who was reputed businessman and ornithologist  and keen bird watcher .Though a Malaysian he took keen interest in the birds of Jammu and Kashmir and wrote articles  in JBNHS.In their tribute to this great ornithologist  they write, “We at the Bombay Natural History Society are privileged to hold  a part of his  legacy, a fabulous collection of bird photographs, and numerous landscapes of the remote  and pristine  areas that   he explored  while  accompanying Dr Salim Ali on his filed trips. The pictures bear visual testimony to the excellence of the man behind the camera.”(pp.144)
Authors have shown in their presentation  that they are true to their words and deeds in terms of the tribute paid to this great man and the pioneering work of Dr.Salim Ali by providing the researchers, policymakers and readers with the rare pictures and analysis.
It is pertinent to mention that the authors have made a comprehensive assessment of the threats to the rare species of birds in all the three regions viz; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh of the state and brought to the fore the issues concerning the conservation measures and scientific methods that should be employed to   save the birds whether migratory or the indegeneous.The concluding paragraph of the introduction to the book sums up well the objective and broader framework of the work. It reads, “Overall, the key threats to birds and other biodiversity of the state are habitat encroachment, overgrazing by live stock, tourism, firewood collection, and forest fires. As is the case across the world and in India, loss of wetlands owing to human interference is continuing and has resulted in degradation of large numbers of wetlands in the state.”(pp.22)
Underlining the negative role of the human interference other challenges to biodiversity they add.”Besides numerous  human disturbances  threatening the survival of wetlands in Kashmir, such as increased  siltation,eutrophication,overfishing,and encroachment of agricultural land into the  marshes peripheral to lakes, climate change is reported  to have impacted  wetlands in Jammu and Kashmir, as also worldwide, by drying up small wetlands resulting in the  loss of  these “carbon sinks”;converting permanent wetlands into seasonal wetlands, subject to  greater variation in  water levels; enhancing the release of greenhouse gases from these systems; and decreasing biodiversity within affected wetlands.”This book reminds keen observers of the state’s biodiversity of the foremost bird watcher and ornithologist Late Pt.Samsar Chand Kaul of Rainawari, Srinagar, Kashmir who set the bench mark in this field without any patronage and trained his students in the subject and inculcated them to internalise the sense of living in harmony with nature. This book is a tribute to such pioneers .Dr.Asad.R.Rahmani’s and his dedicated team needs to be congratulated for carrying forward this noble mission.
Print quality and presentation of the book is good but if the book would have been divided into chapters and a comprehensive index added at the end of the book, it would have benefited the scholars and keen readers in more ways. Hope the authors and the publisher will work upon it in the next edition. It will lead to the value edition of this important book.
(Writer is a PhD Scholar at School for Hospitality and Tourism  Management(SHTM),Faculty of Business Studies ,University of Jammu, Jammu)

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