BHOPAL: Population of Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis) across Chambal River in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan which is its prime breeding habitat has declined to a dangerous level. This rare species of migratory bird will vanish in next couple of years if immediate steps are not taken, say experts.In a recent survey conducted by T K Roy of Wetlands International South Asia (WISA) and officers of wildlife department of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, researchers could find only 325 Indian skimmers compared to 550 recorded in 1994 by state forest officer R K Sharma. 

Indian Skimmer, IUCN red-listed endangered bird species is only type found in India that breeds and lives in the sanctuary. In winter, it migrates to northern, western and eastern parts of the country and a few migrate to Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh. From 550 at one time, the population of species is now on the decline, experts said. "Immediate attention is required to conserve this species from extinction," Roy said. 

Chambal river used to be prime breeding habitat. Officially, only 2 birds were spotted at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (Assam) in 2013, about 100 on Satkoshia (Odisha) in 2014; 26 on Sone river (MP) in 2013, 115 on Ganges (Narora,UP) in 2014 and 135 in 2015 . As per Wetlands International's Asian Waterbird Census (2001) recorded population 5,542 in Asia and Birdlife International's estimate population 6,000 to 10,000 and as per Dr S Balachandran, BNHS (2005) estimated Indian population to be 2,500 individuals. In 2014, a team of surveyors from the state forest department and Wetlands International South Asia (WISA) spotted several species of birds, including seven classified as endangered in National Chambal Ghariyal Sanctuary. 

Spread over an area of 5,000 sq km, the sanctuary that falls in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, is a habitat for endangered gharial and Gangetic dolphins. The development surprised many experts as unabated sand mining poses a major threat to endangered reptile and mammal species. Experts also reported sighting of endangered and uncommon migrant species of birds during annual endangered aquatic animal census. The sanctuary is a rich habitat for endangered and major winter migratory birds. Immediate steps are required to protect them," said Roy.

Source: Times of India (Dated 04 Apr 2015)