Water scarcity and extreme weather conditions in wildlife reserves in Maharashtra have been taking a toll on India’s national bird, the peacock. The state is devising plans to revive the peacock population and increase the population of other species dwindling in numbers, including vultures.
Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the peacock population had come down over the past few years. The three successive drought years, particularly in Vidarbha and Marathwada, coincided with the decline.
The state government is taking up artificial breeding of peacocks to maintain their population. Artificial breeding was earlier successfully used for increasing the crocodile population, the minister said. Tiger population in the state had increased following a sustained campaign. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) surveillance to ramp up efforts to protect tigers are included in the minister’s plan. To increase the peacock numbers, Mungantiwar said artificially bred chicks would be released in the Tadoba Wildlife Sanctuary near Nagpur.
Speaking about vultures, whose already dwindling population has been a cause of concern, the minister said. “Vultures are now found only in three of the 35 districts in Maharashtra.” He said the government is planning to take up a campaign for vulture preservation.
Mungantiwar said that threatened species of plants and animals in Maharashtra continued to rise and about 161 plant species and 48 animal species were in the list of threatened species. To strengthen efforts to save the tiger population, which has improved, UAV surveillance cameras, already in use in wildlife reserves of Madhya Pradesh, will help keep a tab on movement of tigers and other animals, and keep an eye on poachers, the minister said.
Saplings for farmers on birth of girl child The government is rolling out a plan that links the ‘save the girl child’ campaign and efforts to increase the green cover in the state. In view of the fact that suicides by farmers in Maharashtra, are often linked to lack of funds for education of daughters and their marriage, the state is planning to offer each farmer 11 saplings — five teak, three mango, two jackfruit, and one jamun —on the birth of a girl child, said Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar. “The farmer would be expected to nurture these. They will start paying dividends after five years. So when the girl is five years old and ready to go to school, the farmer can earn Rs 5,000 from sale of produce from these plants to take care of her education. The teak will have fully grown by the time the girl attains 20 years of age. The sale of teak wood at that stage will yield the farmer at least Rs 1 lakh,” Mungantiwar said.
He said the scheme will be rolled out in ten suicide-prone districts in Vidarbha and Marathwada belt by July.