04 January 2010

Lost and Found

Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti), Critically Endangered

Happy new year! 2010 and I write about a species lost and found again!

The Forest Owlet existed for only a decade after it was first described before being rediscovered113 (!) years later in 1997. I had the priveledge to attend a talk by one of the discoverers, rather re-discoverers, a few weeks back here in New Delhi.

Pamela Rasmussen is like an adventure book come to life - filled with a long tale of controversies, mysteries and finally the finding of a SPECIES! A dream all nature explorers and adventurers carry from childhood. So here is the story of the Forest Owlet as I recollect it.

This Owlet was never prolifically observed and a tumbling and twisting tale of specimens follow its course in history. The search only had a few specimens in various museums to follow as a lead. So put on your Detective Cap and follow on - soon these specimens were studied and a tangled web of specimen fraud was unraveled starring in the lead role a Colonel Richard Henry Meinertzhagen a British soldier, an intelligence officer and an ornithologist. Once the truth slipped out and after many a long and hard survey a few tiny patches of forest in India in the Satpuras were found to house these beautiful birds. Its habitat is largely protected in Melghat Tiger Reserve, Taloda Reserve Forest and Toranmal Reserve forest. The key differentiation between notified reserves and reserve forest is the level of actual protection. All 3 places are however under the IBAs of India, broadly strewn across the country and under surveillance by hawk-eyed (or should I say Owlet-eyed) IBCN members. Critically endangered and with ever increasing habitat reduction the Forest Owlet is as closer than ever to vanishing once more than it was a hundred years back!

If you see any Owlet near your garden sunning itself you'll realize the joy of seeing an intelligent predator at their most relaxed... I saw Spotted Owlets (not in danger of becoming extinct) in my garden the other day and it made me think of the Forest Owlet once more.

It would indeed be a shame to lose this bird again after so painstakingly finding it. After all, this time round we may not be as lucky as a hundred years back to see it re-surface again!

You can even adopt this and a few other birds here! This photograph is by Nikhil Devasar.


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Greg said...

Great post Amrita :)

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Carly said...

love your site. Kudos for raising awareness about endangered species, I try to do the same on my blog! Check it out if you'd like :)