Wednesday , October 20 2021

Agri wetlands, new homes for Lesser Adjutant Stork

‘Scholars record 162 chicks taking wing from 101 nests in one breeding season’

Udaipur : The vulnerable water bird specie, Lesser Adjutant Stork, once believed, not to fare well outside of forests, and human-modified areas like agricultural landscapes are thriving well now in such areas.
A first-of-its kind research in central lowland Nepal, around the famed holy site of Lumbini (Gautam Buddha’s birth place) reveals presence of colonies of this water bird.

“What we discovered is rather reassuring and good news for a species that was previously thought to be negatively affected by agriculture.Lesser Adjutant storks breed in small colonies where several pairs build nests together on trees with large canopies, which makes it very easy to spot and monitor them. We discovered over 100 nests of the species in a relatively small area that covered parts of the two neighboring districts of Rupandehi and Kapilvastu. This finding makes this population the largest known breeding population of this species – a huge and pleasant surprise to begin with” Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) ornithologist K.S. Gopi Sundar told Udaipur Kiran. The Mysuru based expert revealed the findings in Udaipur recently, where he is spending his lockdown days. He is the IUCN Co-chair of the Stork,Ibis and Spoonbill specialist group.

Two students, Roshila and Bijay, from the Khwopa college near Kathmandu, and their advisor at the college, Kamal Gosai, aided by a field associate Kailash Jaiswal, and two scientists from the NCF, Swati Kittur and Gopi Sundar, undertook the research to know how the Lesser Adjutant was faring in the Lumbini area. Lowland Nepal, while dominated with cereal multi-cropped agriculture, still has farmers retain trees on the landscape. In addition, farmers of lowland Nepal protect certain tree species, like the fig trees, due to religious beliefs that they accord to these trees, Sunder said. The largest trees, found, available for storks to nest, were gigantic fig trees standing alone amid crops. This combination of forestry and religious practices, was found working for the Lesser Adjutant Storks. They largely used the silkcotton tree (or Semal) that farmers grew as part of agroforestry, and fig trees that farmers preserved due to religious beliefs.

The trees the storks used for nesting were unusually large relative to the size of trees available on the landscape. The students recorded an amazing 162 chicks taking wing from 101 nests in one breeding season! This was a very large number of chicks surviving in one season suggesting that the Lesser Adjutant Stork population in Nepal was far from declining, and that the Lumbini population was likely providing chicks for populations elsewhere. The observation also revealed that Stork colonies that had more wetlands around their colonies produced more chicks.

” We discovered conditions where agriculture was not really bad for Lesser Adjutant Storks, while also figuring out that it was important to maintain large trees on the landscape and to maintain wetlands alongside farmlands. Since both trees and wetlands are also very useful for farmers, this human-dominated landscape seems good to retain the Lesser Adjutant Storks for a long time” the expert claimed. The research has been published in the international journals “Waterbirds” (published by the Waterbird Society of USA) and “Wildfowl” (published by the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust of UK), that are leading publications in the field of waterbird ecology and conservation.

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