Yellow-footed green pigeon retains the state bird tag | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Yellow-footed green pigeon retains the state bird tag

The yellow-footed green pigeon, popularly known as hariyal in Marathi, will continue to be the state bird. On Tuesday, the State Wildlife Board rejected the proposal to declare the critically endangered forest owlet as the state bird.

mumbai Updated: Jun 29, 2011 00:57 IST
Snehal Rebello

The yellow-footed green pigeon, popularly known as hariyal in Marathi, will continue to be the state bird. On Tuesday, the State Wildlife Board rejected the proposal to declare the critically endangered forest owlet as the state bird.

About 150 forest owlets are found in the Toranmal reserve forest of Nandurbar district and Melghat tiger reserve in Amravati. Only four have been found in Madhya Pradesh. On the other hand, the green pigeon is found across India and in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“We don’t want to over expose owlets and want to protect them from ill-informed tourists who will flock to see the bird. If not protected, it will become extinct,” said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary, forest department, adding that many wildlife experts wrote against the forest owlet being tagged as the state bird.

In June 2010, the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) had submitted letters to the state forest department requesting that the declaration of forest owlet as the state bird to ensure the much needed conservation of the bird.

For 113 years, the forest owlet was regarded extinct till British researcher Pamela Rasmussen rediscovered it on her trip to Maharashtra in 1997. There are about 250 white-bellied forest owlets in the world.

“We decided the forest owlet not be publicised and their population be allowed to grow. Besides, it is found only in dense forests unlike the commonly found green pigeon,” said Sunil Limaye, director and conservator, Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

However, Raju Kasambe, project head, Important Bird Areas project, BNHS, disagreed with the state’s argument of keeping the forest owlet a secret. “In 1887, the forest owlet was found in the Orissa and Chattisgarh forests. But when researchers went to look for them in 1997, both the forest and the bird had vanished, as a result of keeping its existence a secret,” said Kasambe.

“More people should know about the bird so that it can be conserved and protected with its habitat. There is no rule saying a threatened bird cannot be a state bird,” he added.