Thursday, July 2, 2009

Girnar's mysterious Siberian cranes!

Girnar's mysterious Siberian cranes!
Jumana Shah & Amit Arora / DNA, Sunday, June 28, 2009 10:09 IST
Is the visit of the stunning Siberian cranes to the Girnar forest hills in Gujarat, the state's best kept secret? If the company building the ropeway to the temple atop Girnar Hill in Junagadh, Usha Breco, is to be believed, the Sibes are one of the 20 endangered species found in the Girnar hills! This, ornithologists and naturalists of the region assert, is "absurd", as this highly endangered species of cranes has never visited Gujarat.

Moreover, the state does not even fall on the Siberian Crane's Central Asian flyway. The species is a migratory bird that visited India from central Asia during winters. In India, the crane has been sighted only in Keoladeo National park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. But even there, the Sibes have not been sighted since early 2002.
As for Usha Breco, this information was revealed by the company in the environment public hearing of the Girnar aerial ropeway on June 3 in Junagadh, in reply to queries by activists. The company's reply has been uploaded on the Gujarat Pollution Control Board's website as part of the minutes of the hearing.
Deputy conservator of forest, and a very keen birder, Uday Vora says, "It is a great folly. There has been no record of Siberian cranes in Girnar. It has apparently been written by someone who does not know the basics of ornithology or does not know the difference between Demoiselle crane and Sibes."
While some environmentalists are finding the mistake funny, others are enraged at the company's lack of sensitiveness on the ecological importance of the region. Girnar hills are home to the endangered Asiatic lions and fast vanishing vultures. "The company is about to be entrusted with a very sensitive responsibility of constructing ropeway in an ecological sensitive zone. If they are not aware of the existing flora and fauna, how are they going to conserve it?" a naturalist claimed, requesting anonymity.
The company officials on their part disown the data saying the information given to the activists at the public hearing was compiled completely with the help of forest department officials and professors of local universities. "I am not aware of this particular information (about Siberian cranes), but all the information about wildlife was provided to us by the forest officials," said western regional head of Usha Breco, Dipak Kapilesh.