Andhra Pradesh

Giving wings to painted storks

Painted stork guarding chicks at Veerapuram in Anantapur district on November 28, 2019, where they come for nesting.

Painted stork guarding chicks at Veerapuram in Anantapur district on November 28, 2019, where they come for nesting.   | Photo Credit: Ramesh Susarla

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Conservation of Asia’s largest nesting ground of painted storks in Anantapur district still a far cry

Veerapuram and Venkatapuram villages together host over 3,000 painted storks every year during the nesting season that starts in November and ends in May.

The villages together are believed to constitute Asia’s largest colony of single species.

Contrary to popular belief that the birds migrate from Siberia and other far-off places, these painted storks travel within the sub-continent to suit atmospheric temperature needs. These winged visitors, who have been inhabiting these two villages for over a century, originally began nesting on a massive banyan tree in Venkatapuram, but poachers and predators forced the birds to nest on tall trees in Veerapuram instead.

With villagers becoming increasingly aware of the need to protect the birds, the number of arrivals is witnessing a steady increase every year. Today, villagers are proud of the winged visitors and do their bit in conserving their habitat. The acidic nature of the droppings result in some inconvenience for the inhabitants while the cutting down of grown trees has also posed problems.

A painted stork in Anantapur district.

A painted stork in Anantapur district.   | Photo Credit: Ramesh Susarla

 

Venugopal Reddy, a farmer and resident of Veerapuram, takes pride in the conservation activities of the painted storks by taking care of chicks that fall to the ground from their tree-top nests. Mr. Venugopal Reddy personally nurses the chicks for two months, when they can finally fly on their own.

These birds need a constant supply of fish during the nesting season to feed the three or four chicks that they hatc between February and May. Locals complain that the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department is doing little but mere tokenism by releasing only ₹20,000 a year to support the birds, while Save Our Storks (SOS) run by Venugopal Reddy and other active villagers spend ₹1 lakh a season. In 2018-19, the amount was not released.

Villagers chip in with their own personal contributions in bringing fish, said Devarappa, an elderly man of Venkatapuram. "We are now united in fighting against those who try to harm the annual visitors," adds Devarappa.

A painted stork guarding chicks at Veerapuram.

A painted stork guarding chicks at Veerapuram.   | Photo Credit: Ramesh Susarla

 

Bengaluru-based Saleem Hameed of Save Our Wildlife (SOWL), who supports the villagers by treating chicks that need medical attention, says these painted storks choose trees within the village as they get protection from predators like wolves and jackals. Andhra Pradesh has some of the best water bird nesting and roosting grounds and a little help in feeding the chicks with fish would go a long way as these birds fly more than 60 km upto Bukkapatnam near Puttaparthi, Penukonda, Gudibanda and Chintamani, Devanahalli in Karnataka in search of food.

Former District Forest Officer K.K. Chandrasekhar Rao had prepared a ₹80 lakh project report for improving the conditions at Veerapuram and attract tourists, but it never saw the light of the day. A few efforts were made to plant saplings of tall trees between Veerapuram and Venkatapuram by the SOS with the help of the Forest Department.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 10:07:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/giving-wings-to-painted-storks/article30126263.ece

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