Rare bird en­dan­gered by Tanintharyi habit de­struc­tion

The Myanmar Times - - News - KYI KYI SWAY news­room@mm­times.com

A RARE bird species in Tanintharyi Re­gion is in dan­ger of be­ing wiped out as its habi­tat is eroded by eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. The In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture says Gur­ney’s pitta, said to be the liv­ing sym­bol of the penin­su­lar re­gion, is listed as en­dan­gered.

The species can sur­vive only in low­land trop­i­cal for­est.

Flora and Fauna In­ter­na­tional pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor for Tanintharyi Re­gion U Nay Myo Shwe said about 20 birds were found in Tanintharyi Re­gion this year. It is not clear how many more might still ex­ist.

The species is al­ready nearly ex­tinct in Thai­land. Since the start of this year, only four Gur­ney’s pit­tas have been found there, ac­cord­ing to the Thai forestry depart­ment. “We’re try­ing to con­serve them,” said Somy­ing Thun­hikorn, a tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer with the depart­ment.

The spread of rub­ber and palm oil pro­duc­tion in the re­gion has taken a heavy toll on the birds’ nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

“The pop­u­la­tion of the species has been de­creas­ing be­cause of the loss of their habi­tat,” said Daw Thiri Dawei Aung, con­ser­va­tion man­ager of the Bio­di­ver­sity and Na­ture Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (BANCA).

BANCA and FFI re­searchers say Gur­ney’s pitta is found in sec­ondary for­est, semi-ev­er­green for­est, pri­mary de­graded for­est, bam­boo for­est and be­tel nut plan­ta­tions.

“We also found them in bam­boo forests, but I don’t know if they were just pass­ing through or nest­ing,” said Daw Thiri Dawei Aung. Most sur­viv­ing birds set­tle in the Nga Wun re­serve for­est be­tween May and Oc­to­ber, the re­search in­di­cates.

Gur­ney’s pitta was re­dis­cov­ered in 2003. Its prime habi­tat, nat­u­ral forests at an el­e­va­tion of 150 me­tres, has been largely turned over to palm oil plan­ta­tion since 2010, said Daw Thiri Dawei Aung.

“Con­serv­ing all the low­land for­est would al­low the con­ser­va­tion not only of Gur­ney pitta but also of a wide va­ri­ety of other species,” she said, adding that the for­est was be­ing eroded.

Ac­cord­ing to FFI’s lat­est re­search, the birds were found around the Nga Wun plains and Pha­yartan and sur­round­ing vil­lages in 2016, said U Nay Myo Shwe.

“Gur­ney’s pitta is al­most the liv­ing sym­bol of Tanintharyi Re­gion,” said FFI’s U Nay Myo Shwe. “We still have the for­est and the birds. It’s still pos­si­ble to con­serve them. But we have to act be­fore it’s too late.”

Myan­mar is home to at least 1126 species of birds, of which 134 species can be found only in Tanintharyi. Nine species are con­sid­ered to be crit­i­cally en­dan­gered and three are en­dan­gered.

Photo: Wi­ki­com­mons

A male Gur­ney’s pitta is seen in Phuket, Thai­land.

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