Rare bird endangered by Tanintharyi habit destruction
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.
A male Gurney’s pitta is seen in Phuket, Thailand.