Indian Sarus Crane, an endangered bird variety, is usually found in the wetlands of Swan River in Una district, but is fast losing its habitat.
Reason: The government has initiated a project in the state for the canalisation of the Swan.
The 15-km stretch of the river from Jhalera to Tahliwal has already been canalised. Though it has helped save acres of agriculture land, it has also destroyed the natural wetlands created by the monsoon floods in the river. To make things worse, the government is allowing industries to come up on the banks of the Swan. In Una district, a paper industry was coming right in the wetland area on the banks of the river. The industry is, however, now closed. This area is a habitat of Sarus Crane. The industrial units functioning in the area are posing a threat to the habitat of endangered birds, which is likely to be destroyed totally.
Prabhat Bhatti, an amateur ornithologist, has been keeping a watch over Sarus Cranes visiting the Swan wetland since the past few years. While talking to The Tribune, he said: “About 16 pairs of Sarus Crane used to visit the wetland areas of Swan near Santoshgarh area of the district. Some of these were also resident population. These pairs also used to breed here during the monsoon season. The people of the area, after being sensitised to protect the bird species, are tolerant towards them. However, it is the loss of habitat that is endangering the Sarus Cranes living in wetland areas of Swan.” He said now, just about six Sarus Cranes are spotted in the wetland.
“The number of Sarus Crane pairs is reducing over the years. This monsoon, just four pairs were sighted in the Swan wetland area,” Bhatti said.
Though the canalisation of the river cannot be stopped, as it was benefitting hundreds of farmers, the government can help save certain spots, where the Sarus Cranes visit regularly. The Forest Department with the help of NGOs working in the area can identify certain spots in the wetland that are essential for the habitat of Sarus Crane. These areas can be protected from urbanisation as the habitat of endangered birds. The development of such pockets can be inculcated in the multi-crore Swan canalisation project, environmentalists in the area said.
A major threat to endangered species
- Sarus Cranes are the tallest crane species that can be about 6-ft high, with a wing span of 8 ft. It is the biggest flying bird. In Indian Sarus Crane, white feathers form a collar in between the bare reddish skin of the lower neck. The male and female birds are indistinguishable, but the female ones are slightly smaller than the males.
- The Sarus Cranes generally breed in wetland areas or paddy fields during the monsoon. The female generally lays two eggs and the males take the responsibility of defending the nest.
- Sarus Cranes are omnivorous. They eat everything ranging from tubular plants, insects, small invertebrates and vertebrates.
- These are on the endangered list of birds created by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The loss of habitat in the form of natural wetlands is being considered a major threat to the population of Sarus Cranes.