Feb. 10: Eagles and vultures have disappeared from Cachar’s skyline, confirming a suspicion that ornithologists and birdwatchers long held — that deforestation is robbing the district of its bird heritage.
Not just Cachar, there has also been a sharp decline in the population of these birds in the other south Assam districts of North Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj.
Scientists tracking eagle and vulture population confirmed Cachar’s suspicions.
India has lost 99.9 per cent of the oriental white-rumped vultures over the past 15 years and 96.8 per cent of long-billed vultures and slender-billed vultures, researchers from India and the UK said in May last year.
Bird watchers in Cachar and Hailakandi claim that the greater spotted eagle, white tailed eagle and grey headed fish eagle can no longer be seen the area. As have disappeared the bearded vulture and the cinereous vulture.
Abhik Gupta, a professor of ecology in Assam University and an avid birdwatcher, said cinereous vultures could be sighted only once in the past 12 years at Silcoorie tea estate, 12 miles south of Silchar town.
While most attribute this decline to rampant deforestation that has robbed the birds of their homes, scientists feel that diclofenac, a common painkiller used to relive pain in cattle, could be one of main culprits.
When vultures feed on livestock carcass with traces of diclofenac, they slowly die from dehydration.
Mathematical modelling based on the diclofenac concentrations in tissues available to vultures show that there is sufficient diclofenac in livestock carcasses to cause the population decline that has been observed, scientists had said.
In the midst of this research, Cachar forest officials were thrilled to find a red-tailed fish eagle in Silchar in January-end.
Y. Suryanarayan, the conservator of the forest department in south Assam, said the bird, which looked sick, was perched on the wall of a Silchar neighbourhood.
It was carefully rescued, fed and nursed till it was healthy enough to fly away.