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Critically endangered Forest Owlet spotted in Western Ghats

 The Hindu, Mumbai, 29th November, 2014

 A Forest Owlet found in Melghat, Maharashtra. The discovery of 'Forest Owlet', listed as one facing a high risk of extinction, in the Western Ghats has brought new hope about its survival. Photo: Special Arrangement

Researchers have found the critically endangered ‘Forest Owlet’ in the northern part of the Western Ghats, 100 km from Mumbai.

  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has named this bird as the one facing a high risk of extinction. Till now, Forest Owlet was known endemic to Satpuda mountain ranges in central India. Its discovery in the Western Ghats has brought new hope about its survival.   Naturalist Sunil Laad, associated with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), spotted the Forest Owlet in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra’s Palghar district in October.    On subsequent study tours to Tansa, visitors and conservationists were greeted with calls of the bird around seven km from the location. A research paper authored by Sunil Laad and Rohidas Dagale, based on this finding, will shortly be published in the Journal of BNHS (JBNHS).   “I am extremely delighted to know about the discovery of this extremely rare bird so close to Mumbai. I hope the authorities will take proper steps to protect the Forest Owlet in Tansa,” Dr. Asad Rahmani, Director, BNHS, told The Hindu   For nearly 113 years, Forest Owlet was considered to be extinct, until researchers rediscovered it in 1997 in Toranmal Reserve Forest near Shahada in the Satpuda ranges in Nandurbar District, Maharashtra. Later studies established its presence across Satpuda ranges from Piplod in Gujarat and Toranmal to Yawal and Melghat in Maharashtra and Kalibhit in Madhya Pradesh.   The place where it was located is a dry deciduous forest, with open patches, which is very similar to the typical Forest Owlet habitat in the Satpuda ranges. However, this location in Tansa is partially degraded due to human disturbances.   Scientists working on Forest Owlet too are excited over the discovery. “This species was for long known to be endemic to Satpuda ranges and has now been recorded in northern Western Ghats. This clearly highlights the need to conserve crucial avian habitats such as Tansa and other areas which are potential homes of Forest Owlet,” Girish Jathar, an Ornithologist with the BNHS, said.