A new report highlights a rather under-researched conservation crisis—a drastic decline in India’s bird population
India is facing an avian crisis—the State of India’s Birds 2020 report highlights that over a fifth of the country’s bird diversity has been in decline over a period of 25 years. The current trends for 146 species—over a five-year period—are quite dire; of these, 80% have registered a decline, with almost 50% declining strongly. The report, a joint study by 10 organisations, states that the Indian subcontinent has been facing a steady decline in bird diversity and numbers due to human activity, inlcuding trapping/hunting, and pet trade. It found that just 126 species of the 867 assessed have registered “stable” trends. Read with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it classifies species according to their declining rate; 442 into low concern, 319 into moderate concern, and 101 into high concern. The species in the high concern category include those whose indices have dropped considerable in long-term and continue to decline—cotton teal, short-toed snake eagle, and red necked falcon, to name a few.
The report is the first ever attempt to assess the status of various species of birds in India. It is important to do so as birds are an integral part of the ecosystem. They are crucial for pollination, seed dispersal, keeping the coral reefs alive, and even pest control. The report suggests that the IUCN Red List must be updated, keeping in view the data points it puts forward. It is important to have targeted research into reasons for the decline, apart from the known causes—habitat loss and fragmentation. The government must increase its efforts in conservation by funding such research work.