Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Sunday, March 3, 2024

Call to preserve habitat of Great Indian Hornbills in the Nilgiris











With the breeding season of the Great Indian Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) almost at an end this year, the need to preserve what’s left of its habitat in the Nilgiris has never been greater. 




Researchers said that the bird’s prime nesting grounds are located in the evergreen forests that come under the jurisdiction of the Nilgiris North-Eastern Range in the Nilgiris, where many pairs of the bird, which usually mate for life, were spotted this year during the breeding season, which extends from January till around April every year. 




The species, which has been listed as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is believed to number less than a few hundred in Tamil Nadu, with a significant proportion of them being found in the Western Ghats and the Nilgiris. The nesting grounds of the birds in the Nilgiris North Eastern Range are also believed to support some of the highest densities of the species in Southern India. 




Speaking to The Hindu, P. Balasubramanian, Senior Principal Scientist, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), who had studied the species a few years back, said that the frugivorous bird are an extremely important component of the local ecology, as they also help in dispersing seeds from the fruits that they consume to different parts of the forest. 




Dr. Balasubramanian also spoke of the birds’ breeding habits, with the male bringing food to the female, which nests in a sealed tree cavity along with her eggs to stop any predators from entering her nest. 




The researcher also called for the protection of the nesting sites of these magnificent birds to ensure that the population remains stable. “The Great Hornbill prefers mid-elevation, evergreen forests, and these habitats have become fragmented over the last few decades. With increased human activity in many of these belts, including agriculture, the pressure on their habitats have increased, and these nesting sites need special protection,” he added. 




Though the habitats of the Hornbill are indeed facing increased pressure from anthropogenic activities, the birds are also resilient as they can fly long distances and criss-cross between different habitats, and find fruits to consume, especially figs, which form the majority of their diet. 




S. Kalanidhi, District Forest Officer (Nilgiris North Division), said that the Forest Department was taking all necessary steps to ensure that the habitats of the Great Hornbill are protected. “We keep a strict vigil on ensuring that the Shola and evergreen tree species are not disturbed or cut down, and we also do not give permission for any development activities around these forests,” he said. 




V. Selvam, Forest Range Officer, and teams of forest staff are said to conduct regular patrols near the nesting grounds to ensure that the birds are protected and that the fruit-bearing trees they depend upon are not destroyed. Conservationists said that over the years, poaching of the Hornbill has almost been completely eradicated, but added that pressures on their habitats still persist.









Source: The Hindu