Kochi: The Western Ghats Hornbill Foundation, started as a small group of nature lovers, has become a role model for successful implementation of community conservation programme to protect nature. The Foundation, which conducted several scientific studies and research works, has been playing a crucial role in conservation of rain forest, hornbills and Kadar tribes. The Foundation has successfully completed 10 years of service and is set to make the Vazhachal - Malakkappara forest areas a model for nature conservation with community participation.
In Vazhachal forest division, a major habitat of magnificent hornbills, the number of the birds had been depleting rapidly but due to the effective intervention of the Foundation with the active participation of Kadar tribes the birds were saved from extinction. "There is a definite increase in the bird population in Vazhachal area. During the surveys conducted in the initial years, only 23 nests were identified while in the latest survey the number of nests has gone to 57. We've also identified 23 different species of nesting trees of which 60 per cent are found only in the Western Ghats while 30 per cent of them are endangered," said K.H.Amita Bachan, research director of the Western Ghats Hornbill Foundation.
The Vazhachal forest division is home to three species of hornbills, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill and Malabar Grey Hornbill. Their habitat is mainly centered in the 7-km stretch along the banks of Chalakudy River. With the support of Forest Department, the Foundation has given training to Kadar tribesmen to monitor and conserve the birds and now they are equipped to even conduct scientific surveys and data collection.
Apart from hornbill conservation, one of the major achievements of the Foundation was to develop a system for long-term monitoring of the rainforest eco system. “By equipping the tribes to watch the changes in nesting of birds, changes in habitat and effects of deforestation, we could develop a long-term monitoring system to assess changes in the rainforest, which as important for conservation,” added Amita Bachan....