GUWAHATI- Assam Forest Minister, Chandra Mohan Patowary has released a strategy document for the conservation of the State Bird, the “White-winged duck”, prepared by the Wildlife Trust of India, in collaboration with the Assam Forest Department.
White-winged duck (Asarcornis scutulata), also known as “Deo hanh” in Assamese, was once widely distributed in north-east India and south-east Asia. This species is listed as ‘endangered’ under the IUCN Red Data List due to the small and fragmented population (c. 1000 mature individuals) as per the assessment of BirdLife International in 2016.
Assam and Arunachal Pradesh is the last stronghold of this species, hosting approx. 50% of its global population with an estimate of c. 450 individuals. As per the latest studies conducted in the early 1990s, 21 protected areas were known to support its population globally.
Being the State Bird of Assam, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Dihing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary were established specifically to conserve the species.
Despite the efforts, the White-winged duck is evidentially showing a decline, as per experts and birdwatchers. A concerted effort across its entire distribution range, especially in India, is yet lacking, logically due to a lack of updated information and a synchronous concerted effort.
The prime threats concerning the White-winged duck include destruction, degradation, disturbance of wetlands and pristine rainforests, loss of nesting habitats and poaching of eggs and the bird. The strategy document outlines action plans and frameworks for the long-term conservation of White-winged ducks in Assam.
Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Minister of Assam said, “This initiative of reviving our State Bird brings hope for a better future for the species and strengthens our resolve to revive and protect the natural heritage of our State.”
“I extend my best wishes to Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Environment & Forest Department, Govt. of Assam on this special occasion of publishing the action plan for the conservation of the White-winged duck in Assam. I hope it is able to achieve its desired goals”, expressed Shri. CM Patowary, Hon’ble Assam Forest Minister.
Vivek Menon, Founder and ED, Wildlife Trust of India, said, “This duck is both the state bird of Assam and one of its most endangered avifauna. WTI is determined that with the state government, it will reverse the decline of this cultural icon of Assam and conserve both the species and its endangered habitat.”
The document had received valuable contributions from Mark S. Price (IUCN SSC, UK), Glyn Young (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust Jersey), Asad R Rahmani (Naturalist & Former Director, BNHS), Anwaruddin Choudhury (Rhino Foundation, Assam), Gautam Narayan and Parag J Deka (Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme), Megha Rao (Nature Conservation Foundation), Ranjan Kr Das (Assam Forest Department), Tasang Taga (Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department) and the team from Wildlife Trust of India.