The population of the painted stork, a near-threatened bird, has dwindled from an estimated 250 pairs to a less than 100 in the Mangalwedha taluka of Solapur district in the past three years, claim wildlife activists.
According to the Red List 2011 of threatened birds released by UK-based BirdLife International, the painted stork was classified as “near threatened,” which is the fourth highest level of threat as per the criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Although there are no official figures of the bird population, which is found across India, consistent felling of trees and poaching is said to be the main reason for decreasing numbers in Maharashtra.
“Despite writing to various officials, we have been unable to stop the tree-felling,” said Rameshwar Fugare, a wildlife activist in Mangalwedha. “If we do not protect it now, it will disappear soon.”
The bird was found in abundance near Donaj Lake, around 15 km from Mangalwedha taluka in Solapur district because of ample fish in the lake and trees such as Acacia, locally known as Babhli. The bird nests in colonies during breeding
season, which lasts from September to November in this region.
“The bird numbers are falling not just because of habitat destruction but frequent hunting,” said Pramod Patil, conservation activist who works in Solapur district extensively.
“The nests are easily accessible and after the breeding season , the babies are exposed to nomadic hunting communities,” he added.
“Now that it has been brought to our notice, we will undertake a survey to count the population next year and will implement a conservation plan with the help of locals,” said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary (forests).
Sujit Naravade, scientist in-charge, ENVIS Centre at the Bombay Natural History Society, said, “There is a need to carry out a study on population of this bird. Birds are sensitive to sudden changes in their ecosystem.”