Conservation of birds and their habitats in the State got a fillip with the identification of 12 more Important Bird Areas (IBA). The decision was taken at the recent national conference of the IBA State coordinators.

An IBA is an internationally agreed priority for conservation action, says the BirdLife International website. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the BirdLife partner in India, coordinates the programme. The Indian IBA programme is funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

36 Areas in State

With the latest addition, the number of IBAs in the State has gone up to 36. The new IBAs of Kerala are Camel's Hump Mountains (Wayanad), Banasura Hills and Malabar Wild Life Sanctuary, Muthikulam-Siruvani Reserve Forest, Purathur estuary, Mankulam Reserve Forest, Achencoil Reserve Forest, Kurinji Wildlife Sanctuary, Anamudi Shola National Park, Pampadum Shola National Park, Mathikettan Shola National Park, Ponmudi Hills and Idamalayar-Pooyamkutty.

India has 477 IBAs and Assam tops the list with 46 followed by Karnataka (37). The programme aims at identifying and protecting key sites for conservation of birds and other biodiversity regions.

A site is recognised as an IBA after assessing a set of internationally accepted conditions including the occurrence of key bird species that faces global extinction or whose populations are otherwise irreplaceable, according to BirdLife International.

There are around 30 globally threatened birds in Kerala including the critically endangered White-rumped Vulture and the Long-billed Vulture. The Nilgiri Laughingthrush of the State was classified as endangered, P.O. Nameer, the State coordinator of the Important Bird Area Programme and Indian Bird Conservation Network, says.

Around 90 per cent of the IBAs in India are important for one or more of the 79 globally threatened species in India, according to the BNHS website.

Purathur, an exception

All the newly declared sites except Purathur are reserve forest areas which receive some level of protection. Since Purathur is a wetland area, the birds of the region are exposed to risks, Dr. Nameer, who did the assessments for the Kerala IBAs, pointed out.

“Important to birds”

“When the State government labels new sites as ‘protected,' for nature conservation, it will be advisable to consider IBAs too as they are based on globally accepted criteria. IBAs are important to birds as well as for the biodiversity of the region,” he said.