Bengal florican on the brink of extinction, with agricultural fields as the last resort

Bengal florican are on the brink of extinction, with agricultural fields as the last resort, says a recent study conducted by Rohit Jha and a team of Dehradun’s Wildlife Institute of India. The floricans, being a grassland bird more threatened than the tiger, use agricultural fields, found the researchers.

According to latest figures, less than 1,000 adult Bengal floricans remain in the world. In India, they can be spotted in the grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas, between Nepal and Uttar Pradesh.

The team conducted 934 field surveys to spot floricans between 2013 and 2016 and studied the movement of eleven birds fitted with small satellite tags. The results show that during the monsoon, the floricans move out of protected grasslands towards agricultural fields along large rivers.

These agriculture fields are interspersed with grasslands, had no roads and very few people. The birds are doing this to escape the floods common during monsoon. Floricans need alternating patches of short and tall grass to thrive, and till several decades ago, the large herbivores like rhinoceroses and swamp deer would do this job for them.

But, there are fewer mega-herbivores left and only tall grasslands remain. According to the researchers, this could be the reason behind floricans’ migration to agricultural lands. Some of the tagged birds spent more than half a year in such fields, says Jha. Hence, conserving these agricultural fields is as important as protecting the birds’ grassland habitats in the preservation of floricans.

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