INDORE: Indian skimmer, an endangered species, is fighting for survival at its last stronghold, Chambal River, which is its only breeding ground. Sand mining and illegal fishing have become a major threat to survival of this fresh water bird whose colonies are now confined to banks of Chambal river. 

The colourful bird, with a black cap and orange bill, was once widely found around major rivers and sanctuaries. Now, it's mainly seen in and around parts of National Chambal (Gharial) Wildlife Sanctuary spread across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 

Experts believe the Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis) may soon become extinct if corrective measures are not taken immediately. It has already been categorised as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list. 

According to data in the book — Threatened Birds of India —number of Indian skimmers has come down to 203 in 2014 from 555 in 1995. 

"The bird scoops out food from the water surface in a polluted river fish and insects don't come up to surface thereby making their survival difficult. Chambal is one of the least polluted rivers of the country and that is why the Indian skimmer lives along its bank," said ornithologist Ajay Gadikar. The bird feeds mostly on fish found in fresh water of Chambal river. 

During a study at Gharial sanctuary, a team of researchers led by Dr Fatima Sultana of Kota University, also found the number of skimmers declining in the area. "They may become extinct in a few years, if proper monitoring and conservation methods are not employed," said Sultana. Destruction of sand islands is main reason behind the dwindling bird population. Range Officer of Chambal Forest area RK Sharma said Indian skimmer breeds on sand islands and lays eggs on ground. Sand mining in river basin and fishing are biggest threat to the bird's survival.

Source: Times of India (Dated 03 Jan 2015)