With an aim to conserve the elusive and endangered Lesser Florican bird, the forest department has recommended farmers around Sailana Bird Sanctuary to grow crops that are preferred by the winged creatures for nesting.
The Lesser Florican, locally known as leekh or kharmor, thrives on insects and prefers cover to lay eggs.
Traditional crops like Arhar, Jawar, Moong, Urad, and Chhana attract a lot of insects and also provide cover to the bird, the officials said.
Keeping in mind the species’ necessity, the forest department in Ujjain is distributing seeds free of cost to farmers of the area to encourage them to plant traditional crops to attract the avian species, which breed during the monsoon.
Chief conservator of forest (CCF) Ujjain, PC Dubey said, “It has been well documented that in Bhilwada and Shahpura area of Rajasthan, there has been an increase in the number of kharmors because the farmers have stuck to their traditional crops. So we are encouraging our farmers to do the same.”
The forest department has also come up with a scheme to give cash up to Rs 5,000 to farmers who spot kharmors and inform the forest department about it. “This acts as an added incentive,” said Dubey.
In Madhya Pradesh, according to the figures provided by the forest department, only 19 khamors were spotted in Sailana Sanctuary and there were no sightings in Jhabua-Petlawad and Sardarpur Sanctuary in 2014.
“Kharmors are very shy birds whose main attraction is their sudden jump up to six to seven feet in the air by the male during the mating season. Otherwise, very little is known about these birds and it is still not well chronicled where these birds go after the mating season,” says CCF, Indore RR Okhandiyar.
Sub divisional office (SDO) Ratlam and superintendent of Sailana Bird Sanctuary, Bhagwati Pawar, said that they plan to target around 400 farmers in villages including Amba, Sherpur, Kariya, Nawabganj and Shikarwadi among others to plant the traditional crops.
“We have already prepared the list of farmers and orders have been placed for the seeds which would be distributed before the monsoon,” Pawar said.
He said the nilgai, whose numbers have increased considerably over the last decade, is another major threat to the breeding of kharmors as they trample the bird’s egg when they move in herds to eat the traditional crops.
“We are setting up teams to keep a watch for nilgais and drive them away from the fields where these birds are nesting,” Pawar said.
Ornithologist Ajay Gadikar, who has been studying kharmors and their habitation for the past several years, said the loss of grassland and shifting from traditional crops has been the main reason for the decline in the number of these winged visitors.