As many as 158 different species of birds were recorded during the bird survey at the Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary here.

The three-day bird survey that began on March 12 organised under the aegis of the Forests and Wildlife Department and the Malabar Natural History Society sighted three new species of birds in the sanctuary, namely, the Oriental Scops Owl, the Brown Wood Owl and the White-bellied Drongo, the organisers of the survey said. The total number of birds sighted in the sanctuary since the first bird survey conducted in 2000 rose to 231, they added.

Of the birds found at the sanctuary, 21 species are included in schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, 14 are endemic to the Western Ghats (of 16 birds endemic to the region) and 11 globally threatened species including the Malabar Pied Hornbill, the Great Pied Hornbill, Nilgiri Wood-pigeon and the Nilgiri Pipit.

“The diversity of the birds; the fact that there are 231 species in a small protected area of 55 sq.km; a good population of the Malabar Pied Hornbill which is rarely sighted in the State, indicate the conservation importance of the sanctuary”, said K.V. Uthaman, the Wildlife Warden of the sanctuary.  

The survey was conducted at six different locations of the sanctuary: Valayamchal, Paripputhodu, Kurikkathodu, Chavachi, Meenmutty and Ambalappara. Nearly 40 bird watchers from South India participated in the survey which was led by Mr. Uthaman, ornithologist C. Sasikumar, Jaffer Palot, Sathyan Meppayur and Reghu. The Forest and Wildlife Department extended all assistance to the birdwatchers during the exercise. The department staff and watchers of the sanctuary led by Assistant Wildlife Warden N. Gopalan extended their assistance to the birdwatchers.

“The Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary is the only one protected area in India in which such a survey has been conducted continuously for the last 11 years,” Mr. Uthaman said. He also said the department plans to initiate a comprehensive study of the findings of the past 11 surveys.  

The sanctuary is the northernmost protected area in the State. It is located in the southeast part of the district. It falls in the Aralam, Kelakam and Kottiyur revenue villages and is located in the northwest slopes of the Western Ghats contiguous with the forests of the Kodagu district of Karnataka.