Exodus at Rollapadu
Why are birds abandoning the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh? PRASHANTH M B, VIKRAM ADITYA & T GANESH |
THE GRASSLANDS around Rollapadu, a village in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, was declared a sanctuary in 1988 to protect the dwindling populations of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard. The bustard inhabits dry and semi-arid regions of the country which hold naturally occurring grasslands and savannahs. The decision to declare it as a sanctuary was also to preserve the Rollapadu grasslands, which are critical for the survival of semi-arid and grassland fauna in the Deccan region. Such grasslands, as part of protected areas, occupy much less than one per cent of the total land area of the country, but are home to many threatened fauna such as blackbuck, floricans, harriers, wolves and distinct plant communities. A guard who has lived in the sanctuary since it got the protected status recollects having spotted half-a-dozen bustards, many breeding pairs and solitary birds in the sanctuary area about 15 years ago.
But today, bird species that were extremely common earlier are rarely spotted in Rollapadu. Forest officials say they are hardly able to spot the bustards once or twice a year. Not just the Great Indian Bustard, Montagu’s harrier—a magnificent migratory bird that travels from parts of central Asia to the sanctuary every winter— has also shown declining trends of its presence. Two decades ago, the bird visited the sanctuary in hundreds, according to a study by the Bombay Natural History Society. In 2016, their recorded numbers had dropped to just about 50-75.
It is rare to spot a Great Indian Bustard in the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary