ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ecological Memory

Along with our birds and natural landscapes, our ecological consciousness is slowly disappearing.

The feeling of something being “common” is linked to the idea of plenty. When were sparrows, ants, butterflies and cranes plentiful and common? Perhaps from memories of childhood. When I try to reconstruct nature from 20 years ago, I remember my childhood in Delhi. There were different kinds of bees in the garden, rufous treepies on the ground, green bee-eaters on electric wires, red-whiskered bulbuls calling from pomegranate trees, and the sounds of house sparrows loudly chirping in unison each morning and evening. Today, studies have stated that it is not just total species extinction we should worry about, but also the local disappearance of species populations. So, while we mourn the extinction of the Asian cheetah in India, we should also be mindful that the colourful Indian tota—the Alexandrine parakeet—is now classified as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species. Green bee-eaters have stopped coming to my childhood home now, and urban house sparrow and bee populations are on the decline.

The State of the World’s Birds report (2018), by BirdLife International, an international non-governmental organisation, has just been released. Other than endangered species continuing to be under threat, the report confirms that several common bird populations are also on the decline. Of the more than 11,000 bird species studied, one in eight—that is, 1,469 bird species—are threatened by extinction. Another 1,000-plus are close to being globally threatened. The reasons identified by the report are commonly occurring, and also intertwined, the most insidious being agricultural expansion and intensification, and forest logging. Other significant threats include predation by rats, domestic cats and dogs, and other competing birds, the human-induced proliferation of the wrong kind of plants, hunting and trapping, and climate change. The report finds that among bird families worldwide, the populations of old-world vultures (including the ones in South Asia), parrots and albatrosses are on the decline.

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Updated On : 20th May, 2021
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