Land Use Changes threaten Bengal Floricans in Assam

20 OCTOBER 2021 | Vibhav peri | Crises

Land-use changes at the Kokilabari Seed Farm in Assam threatens the future of Bengal Florican, 25 of which are recorded at the site. The Bustard Specialist Group of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), wrote to the Assam Government to prevent these land-use changes in order to make the future of the species more secure.

The project plans to make the Farm into a University Campus. The Bustard Specialist Group wrote “We support moves to improve higher education but to destroy a natural jewel like Kokilabari would be a terrible sacrifice of nature with which you cannot wish to be associated.”

The Farm is adjacent to Manas, and is one-hundredth of the size of Manas. Yet, as many as 25 Bengal Floricans have been seen at the location at a time. 

The same issue had been flagged by the World Heritage Outlook Assessment last year. The assessment had noted that the establishment of a large Agricultural University in the site could attract more settlers, eventually ruining the ecology of areas adjacent to it. It also noted that the proposal itself could have already resulted in rapid land-encroachment in and surrounding the site.

The Letter by the Bustard Specialist Group to the CM of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, also noted that the site had 200 other species, which made the site very biodiverse, an important ecological zone. 

The Bengal Florican is a critically endangered species in the IUCN Red-List (A list of all species sorted according to how threatened they are). The Red List states that there are only 255-999 mature Bengal Florican individuals in the wild. There are 150 individuals in Assam. Floricans reside in marshy grassland habitat, a characteristic of the Terai region and the lower foothills of the Himalayas. Outside India, they are only found in Nepal and Cambodia in small number, in isolated pockets.

Image Credits: Self, Dudhwa National Park

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