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Sarus Crane Population Declining in Central India, Shows Survey

Sarus Crane

Last week, a survey conducted in Gondia district in Madhya Pradesh and Balaghat in Maharashtra by a local NGO, Sustaining Environment and Wildlife Assemblage (SEWA), noted a worrying decline in the population of Sarus Crane in central India this year.

During the last survey, which was conducted in the last summer, it was noted that the team found a total of 88 Sarus in the area. The number in 2022 has declined to 82. “Of these, 34 were found in Gondia, which is the only location in the state where the bird is known to breed,” said the report. There were 38 of these birds in the same district last year. In Balaghat, the number came down for 48 last year to 45 birds this year.

“Only in Bhandara district, a pair of cranes has had a child this year who is now a sub-adult, so the population has gone up by one individual, touching three totally,” said Sawan Bahekar, honorary wildlife warden, Gondia, who has been tracking these birds since 2004.

Bahekar added that the Sarus Crane population in central India has been steadily declining since 2020 when the total population in the region stood at 96 individuals. This is a worrying trend considering that the bird—the world’s tallest flying avian species—is endangered. Their conservation status is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species globally.

Pradip Patil, assistant conservator of forests, Gondia district, also expressed worry at the declining numbers of Sarus Cranes. “There is a High Court-appointed committee headed by the district collector which is looking into the matter. There are three probable causes—electrocution of the birds due to collisions with high-tension wires, poisoning through insecticide use in nearby fields and habitat loss. There is little evidence of the first two, as only one case of electrocution of Sarus Crane has been reported in the last two years. Insecticide poisoning is also speculation, as we have not encountered it on the field. We are working on developing a policy intervention to conserve the species. It is a priority for us,” he said.

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