THE nice Indian hornbill, the large, weird chicken of the rainforest with its placing wing sample and imposing wingspan, is visually overwhelming and beautiful in flight. Its neck and tail are white, whereas its face and wings are black. Every wing has two white bars, that are conspicuous when it flies. The horn-shaped, highly effective, sharp invoice has a cumbersome casque on high of it; each are yellow, and this distinguishes the chicken from the opposite heavy-winged beauties of the jungles. The loud whoosh of its wings might be heard from a distance like a steam engine of previous chuffing away.
Capturing this huge chicken on digital camera when it deviates from its traditional “gait” resulted in some uncommon and far sought-after pictures, mentioned Shefiq Basheer Ahammed, a globetrotting wildlife photographer, captivated with wild tuskers, massive cats and birds. He has encountered just a few male nice Indian hornbills within the lush inexperienced hilly tracts of Valparai (Tamil Nadu) and Nelliampathy (Kerala), that are each hornbill habitats within the Western Ghats.
Final 12 months, when he was trekking within the mist-clad Nelliampathy jungles adjoining the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Kerala, he was in a position to take an unimaginable photograph through which the chicken, with its wings raised, seemed like a martial arts maestro averting an attacker. It was a shot on the spur of the second when he sighted the chicken on a tall tree. “It was such an superior sight. After my click on, the chicken flew away with heavy wingbeats,” he mentioned.
In one other shot, Shefiq captured the chicken within the midst of the thick leaves of a fig tree with its yellow beak and casque shining within the solar. One other shot was simply of the curved beak jutting out from the leaves. In a single shot, it seemed as if the chicken was hiding from those that wished to observe it. Its curved beak rapidly grabbed the figs, which it generally ate instantly or saved in its beak to ship to the nest. Throughout the peak fruiting season, flocks of hornbills attired the bushes, offering a feast for the eyes, mentioned Shefiq.
Typically, when a terrific Indian hornbill swoops down, its wings appear to be the leaves of a fan. Shefiq mentioned he had seen such photographs of the chicken taken in Thailand by the globally acclaimed wildlife photographer Tim Laman of america. It takes years of affected person ready to take such photographs, and so they go away indelible imprints in a single’s thoughts. Shefiq mentioned that the extra one watched the hornbill, the extra irresistible was the temptation to comply with the chicken in jungles, which one needed to do silently and patiently. The good Indian hornbill is delicate to even the slightest disturbance. He recalled that in Valparai, which is a haven for the lion-tailed macaque, he as soon as watched a terrific Indian hornbill instantly slanting, then twisting or curving its wings, to impart an aerobatic imaginative and prescient within the air. In Nelliampathy, the chicken stopped like a fighter plane, then seemed wobbly however, amazingly, straightened and began gliding. It then perched on a tall tree. “Such unimaginable exhibits stirred me. I used to be lucky to take such photographs,”Shefiq mentioned.
“In each locations, I needed to be affected person. Usually I believed the chicken would come gliding or booming into view at any second and placed on one in every of its magnificent ‘air exhibits’, however that didn’t occur,” he mentioned. Two days later, whereas Shefiq was trekking in Valparai, a chicken instantly appeared, with its audible heavy wingbeats and deep grunts. Shefiq, who was hiding behind a tree, swung his digital camera into motion. By his binoculars, he may see that the chicken seemed agitated.
There was a nest with a feminine and chicks inside close by. After strolling somewhat distance, Shefiq may see three honey collectors, members of a tribe who lived within the forest. They have been trying on the excessive nest and speaking. The male chicken was alert and will hear them. It will get agitated at any signal of hazard as a result of its function is that of guardian angel, a scrupulous protector of the nest. It additionally feeds the feminine and the chicks. Hunters used to steal the chicks as they have been delicacies, and in the event that they bought an opportunity they might kill the male chicken for its casque because it was used as an decoration in dances on festive events. If poachers attempt to snatch the chicks, the male chicken will assault them with its sharp beak and critically injure them. Some tribal folks nonetheless carry the deep scars of hornbill assaults on their our bodies. However now the safety measures within the forest are efficient. Poachers are caught red-handed and booked for forest offences. The Forest Division employs honey collectors to watch and hold a watch over the hornbill nests.
The late Salim Ali, the legendary birdman of India, meticulously noticed the nice Indian hornbill and different birds throughout his chicken surveys in 1933. Birds of Kerala, his mammoth work, has impressed generations of naturalists in Kerala. That is his most romantic description of the hornbill: “Their deep harsh grunts, roars or barks, and loud resonant name tok-tok, and many others., reverberate within the forest-clad valleys and are answerable for their Malayalam identify [Malamuzhakki, that means reverberations within the mountains].The flight, gradual and heavy, is completed by deliberate beats of the broad wings, the guidelines of the primaries are upturned, and is punctuated by occasional quick glides. The loud rasping sound produced on every downstroke is audible at appreciable distance. The chicken’s behavior of smearing the white wing bands and foreneck feathers with the yellow oily exudation from its preen gland is outstanding…. I definitely assume that one of the thrilling and grotesque characters in Kerala is the nice Indian hornbill.”
There are 4 species of hornbills within the Western Ghats. The distinguished amongst them is the nice Indian hornbill and the others are the Malabar pied hornbill, the frequent gray hornbill and the Malabar gray hornbill. The hornbill is current in India from the Himalayas to Kumaon to Assam and in Myanmar, the Malay peninsula, Thailand, Sumatra, and so forth. Completely, there are 57 species in Africa and Asia with 10 within the Indian subcontinent. The Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature has evaluated the nice Indian hornbill as weak on its Purple Listing of Threatened Species. Habitat loss, deforestation, human interference, poaching and growth actions within the forests are answerable for its decline. In Thailand, the helmeted hornbill is poached for its casque, which is, in truth, answerable for the decline in its numbers. Even poachers from China intrude into Thailand.
The globally famend authorities on hornbills Pilai Poonswad (Thailand) and Alan Kemp (South Africa) and the photographer Morten Unusual (Denmark) got here out with Hornbills of the World: A Photographic Information, an vital and genuine work that covers all of the 57 hornbill species in Asia and Africa. Tim Laman took a lot of the pictures on the 2 continents. Some hornbill names are fairly attention-grabbing, for instance,the brown-cheeked hornbill, the white-thighed hornbill; the silvery-cheeked hornbill and the black dwarf hornbill, all from Africa, and the white-crowned hornbill, the helmeted hornbill, the rhinoceros hornbill and the rufous-necked hornbill, all from Asia. The Narcondam hornbill is confined to Narcondam Island of the Andamans.
Final month, the Kerala authorities gave nature lovers a impolite shock by deciding to go forward with a proposed 163 MW hydroelectric mission that may contain constructing a dam on the Chalakudy river in Thrissur district. When the mission was first mooted, environmentalists had warned that it will be disastrous for riparian forests, aquatic biodiversity and natural world, together with the hornbill inhabitants, and that the elephant hall from Chalakudy to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve can be critically affected The proposal was put apart becauseof the general public outcry, however instantly the federal government has revived it once more.
Prof. Amita Bachan, who has carried out detailed research of the riparian forests within the space, noticed that the distinctive ecosystem can be ruined if the dam was constructed. Low-level hornbill nests are discovered solely on this area of the Western Ghats, which is able to bear the brunt of the mission. Nonetheless, environmentalists and nature lovers in Kerala are on the brink of confront the federal government on the difficulty.
Chalakudy-Vazhachal forest space
All those that learn Salim Ali’sautobiography, Fall of a Sparrow, will likely be moved by his fond remembrances of the Chalakudy-Vazhachal forest space and the adjoining Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, now a tiger reserve. He visited these wealthy and dense chicken habitats in 1933 throughout his Travancore-Cochin chicken surveys on the behest of the Maharaja of Travancore. The Cochin Forest Administration had constructed a tramway from Chalakudy to Parambikulam to maneuver timber from the forests to Chalakudy, from the place it was taken in lorries to Cochin harbour for export. Salim Ali had now and again travelled on the tramway, which was dismantled in 1946, and watched birds, together with hornbills. He referred to as it a romantic tramway.
At any time when he visited Kerala, he recalled these days. He visited Kuriarkutty, a wealthy chicken habitat, in 1986 within the firm of his protege R. Sugathan,who’s at current an ornithologist with the chicken sanctuary in Thattekad, 60 km from Kochi metropolis. On seeing Salim Ali, an previous tribal man who had accompanied him on his chicken surveys within the 1930s exclaimed: “Oh, you have got come once more Bombaywalla? You wish to shoot and kill birds?”(On the time of these surveys, birds have been shot down with tiny bullets for remark and research.) Salim Ali burst out laughing. He hugged the previous man and exchanged pleasantries with him. Salim Ali was deeply moved on the sight of flocks of nice Indian hornbills in Parambikulam.
He visited the Thattekad sanctuary in 1986 and was heartbroken when he discovered that each one the tall bushes had vanished. Hornbills want tall bushes for nesting, and he questioned how they may survive with out the bushes. Salim Ali noticed that successive governments and crooked politicians had carried out senseless vandalism on virgin forests to clear land for settlements or for so-called growth initiatives corresponding to dams and to extract uncooked supplies for wood-based industries. Sugathan felt that his guru was weeping silently.
Up to now 20 years, ground-breaking analysis has taken place in India on the behaviour and ecology of hornbills, and helpful data has been gathered. Scientists have undertaken glorious fieldwork, which has benefited from the appearance of digital images.
The scientists Divya Muddappa and T.R. Shankar Raman of the Nationwide Conservation Basis, Mysuru, visited 45 areas in Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu to hold out an in depth survey of the hornbills of the Western Ghats. They ready a report titled “A conservation standing of hornbills (Bucerotidae) within the Western Ghats, India”. It mentioned that the Malabar gray hornbill was essentially the most steadily sighted and extensively distributed of the hornbill species adopted by the nice Indian hornbill and the Malabar pied hornbill. The scientists recognized the next because the vital hornbill conservation landscapes within the Western Ghats: Amboli-Goa-Dandeli, Anamalai-Parambikulam, Nilgiris, Wayanad, Someshwara-Mookambika, Neyyar-Peppara-Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Periyar Tiger Reserve and Nelliampathy.
The survey report beneficial establishing a committee with native participation and a forest officer as a facilitator. It wished an motion plan to watch and shield hornbills. The survey made the startling discovering that there was very low consciousness of the hornbill species even among the many forest workers of protected areas. So, the scientists beneficial that training and consciousness programmes ought to go hand in hand with safety and conservation efforts.
Plantations have turn into frequent in lots of forest areas, for instance,the espresso plantations within the Anamalai hills. Scientists from completely different scientific establishments have noticed that the nice Indian hornbill might adapt to modified habitats so long as the important thing attributes referring to foraging and nests are current. They’ve additionally carried out detailed research on the tree species hornbills choose for nesting and on tree density; plant density; meals availability; nest cavities; and availability of bugs, lizards, small snakes, and so forth.
As Pilai Poonswad says: “Many particulars nonetheless have to be explored and documented about hornbills from the world’s most fascinating wild environments of Africa and Asia.”
G. Shaheed is Chief of Authorized and Atmosphere Information Bureau of Mathrubhumi, Kochi.
Shefiq Basheer Ahammed, who has travelled extensively in India and overseas, is a motor autos inspector in Kochi.