Jerdon's Courser Project
Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquantus is a critically endangered nocturnal ground bird, now restricted to Kadapa District and possibly some surrounding areas in Andhra Pradesh. In the past it was recorded from several locations across Andhra Pradesh and even from one location in eastern part of Maharashtra. It is included in the Schedule-1 of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It was considered extinct until it was rediscovered to science by BNHS in 1986. The area was subsequently designated as Sri Lankamaleswara Wildlife Sanctuary by the government. At present the bird and its habitat is under considerable pressure from habitat conversion, uncontrolled agricultural expansion enabled by new irrigation facilities, uncontrolled livestock grazing and bird trapping.
Since 2000, BNHS has been working in the area with the objective of detecting suitable habitat in and around the sanctuary for Jerdon’s Courser and also detecting the presence of bird, which is highly elusive. With the initial funding provided by Darwin Initiative, UK, the project continued with support from Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), University of Reading, University of Cambridge and Andhra Pradesh Forest Department.
Since then, there has been considerable progress in developing standard survey techniques to detect the presence of the bird and to understand its habitat requirements. The methods used for survey are as follows.
· Listening for calls
· Playing recorded calls to evoke response from the bird
· Tracking, using soil strips on the ground
· Use of radio telemetry
· Use of camera traps
Three new sites where the bird still occurs have been identified in and around the sanctuary. Ongoing monitoring of the state of the habitat, awareness activities among the local community and training programmes for Forest Department officials are the other objectives of the project.
In 2010, BNHS also submitted a Species Recovery Plan for Jerdon’s Courser to Andhra Pradesh Forest Department and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India. The objectives highlighted in the plan are as follows.
· Species level recovery action and study of population ecology
· Habitat level recovery
· Setting up on an institutional framework