The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is yet to catch up with the ground reality of the number of species of critically endangered birds in the country. When environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan released a book on Tuesday, which updates the list of birds facing a threat of extinction in India, it perhaps escaped her mind that the ministry’s official list is outdated.
Experts say since this leaves some endangered species out of the ministry’s purview, they face a risk of becoming extinct.
Released as a booklet in March 2011 by the MoEF, the ‘Critically endangered animal species of India’ was the first such list put out by the ministry. It names the species of critically endangered birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, spiders and corals.
The book released by Natarajan, Threatened Birds of India — Their Conservation Requirements, is a comprehensive reference book. It uses the BirdLife/International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2011 list as a base and provides India-specific data. The book, written by reputed ornithologist Dr Asad Rehmani, who serves as the director of the Bombay Natural History Society, names 15 critically endangered, 15 endangered, 52 vulnerable, 66 near threatened and two data deficient bird species, as well as five others with only stray records in India.
The MoEF’s booklet, however, names only 13 critically endangered species of birds — the Jerdon’s Courser, the forest owlet, the white-bellied heron, the white-backed vulture, the slender-billed vulture, the long-billed vulture, the red-headed vulture, the Bengal Florican, the Himalayan quail, the pink-headed duck, the sociable lapwing, the spoon-billed sandpiper and the Siberian crane; the Christmas Island frigatebird and the great Indian bustard have been left out.
Despite repeated attempts, Natarajan was unable for comments.
Rehmani tried to play down the issue, adding that the MoEf’s list may be outdated because it was based on data collected in 2010. The great Indian bustard was added to the IUCN list only in 2011. He, however, minced no words in expressing his displeasure with the conservation measures. “In this country, no conservation activity looks beyond tigers.”