In 2007,an abandoned nest of endangered bird species Lesser Florican was found by a few local tribals in Vidarbha region,which they reported to the representatives of NGO Samvedana in the area. After the incident,it was felt that with the involvement of phaseparadhi the local tribes of this region the endangered bird can be saved,said Kaustubh Pandharipande,founder secretary of Pune-based NGO Samvedana.
We approached the Centre for Environmental Education with a proposal of small grant programme for the conservation of the species. Several meetings and partnership with the forest department encouraged a more community-based livelihood approach to conservation. The knowledge of the phaseparadhi tribe about local biodiversity is strong but was never used for conservation purpose. The project advocated the use of their knowledge for biodiversity conservation by providing them alternative livelihood using their traditional skills, said Pandharipande.
The Lesser Florican is a large bird that belongs to the bustard family. From 2008 to 2011,the NGO worked with the phaseparadhi community,primarily in Akola and Washim district,on a project that aimed to protect the Lesser Floricans. The project was funded by United Nation Development Programme (UNDP),Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF),and Global Environment Facility (GEF). Now,we are estimating that there are around 25 Lesser Floricans in this region. We protected three nests,of which six more birds have bred, he said.
Though the project ended in 2011,the NGO is still working in the Vidarbha region towards Lesser Florican conservation. It adopted a participatory approach,and special training programmes and activities were organised for the local tribal community. The activities focussed on protection of Lesser Floricans in its habitat in 800 sq km area around 10 villages,identification of ideal habitat for bird through community involvement and local knowledge,identification of foraging,mating,breeding sites with the help of phaseparadhis. The activity was built on the local knowledge,skills and practices of the hunting tribes. They were also briefed on the use of modern equipment like cameras.
Vinay Sinha,Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (ecotourism and wildlife administration),Maharashtra,said there is a need to address conservation of habitat to save the bird. It is a challenging task to quantify the number of birds as it keeps varying. But based on the report by the locals and NGO working in Sisamasa in Akola,there are around 20-25 Lesser Floricans in the region. There may be other pockets where the bird must be active but are yet to be identified. We plan to tell the authorities to chalk out a more systematic approach of counting the birds.
According to the Biodiversity Act,2002,Biodiversity Management Committee should be at three levels village,panchayat and district. After that,there is a state level committee. We along with the State Forest Department are in the process of preparing a draft,which stresses that the state level committee should involve in decision making people who have in-situ experience of working for the conservation of such endangered birds, he said.