Loss of habitat could push Assam’s state bird to extinction, says study

Published on Oct 31, 2022 04:22 PM IST

A new study has said that Assam’s state bird, the white-winged wood duck could become extinct in a few decades due to loss of habitat as a result of impact of climate change and anthropogenic factors

The white-winged wood duck is also called Deo Hanh or divine duck in Assam. (Sourced)
The white-winged wood duck is also called Deo Hanh or divine duck in Assam. (Sourced)

Assam’s state bird, the white-winged wood duck (Asarcornis scutulata), could become extinct in a few decades due to loss of habitat as a result of impact of climate change and anthropogenic factors, warns a study by a team of researchers.

The white-winged wood duck, called Deo Hanh or divine duck in Assam, is an endangered species listed under Schedule 1 of Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The species is found in northeast India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

The study done by Jyotish Ranjan Deka and Syed Ainul Hussain of Wildlife Institute of India-Dehradun, Animekh Deka of Assam University-Silchar and Abhijit Boruah, Jyoti Prasad Das and Rubul Tanti of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based wildlife NGO, was published in the recent edition of the Journal for Nature Conservation.

It is estimated that there are only 800 white-winged wood duck (WWWD) across the world and of which 450 are known to be present in the Indian Eastern Himalayan (IEH) region mainly at specific locations in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

The WWWD inhabits swampy areas of dense tropical evergreen forests at altitudes ranging from 200 m to 1,500 m above sea level. Habitats with an annual temperature range of 22 to 30 degree Celcius and receive 1,000-1,200 mm of rainfall between June and October are most suitable for the species.

The study stated that out of the total 273,490 sq km area in IEH, 5,123 sq km is ‘highly suitable’ for the WWWD. It stated that overall potential habitat of the species in IEH, which comprise all eight states in the northeast and hilly areas of West Bengal, would shrink due to climate change.

“Only 142.20 sq km of high potential area (habitat) would exist in 2050. Between 2050 and 2070, there will be a loss of 465 sq km of the high potential habitat under the influence of climate change,” the study said.

“Climate change will impact most of the potential habitats of eastern Assam, including Dehing Patkai National Park and Doomdooma forest division, which are the prime habitats of WWWD,” it added.

The study noted that in recent decades there has been a notable rapid decline in the global population of WWWD, primarily due to anthropogenic destruction of their natural habitats.

It mentioned that threats such as habitat loss, forest fragmentation, habitat degradation, water pollution and drying up of water bodies due to climate change have reduced the population of the species in their natural habitats.

“Hunting and collecting eggs for food have further threatened their existence. In the tropical forests of Assam, a decline in the population of WWWD has been observed mainly because of the destruction of forest habitats and the clearing of forests near water bodies,” the study said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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