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Bird project gets a boost

Kalimpong, Feb. 14: Two of the 10 species of hornbill found in India have been spotted in Neora Valley National Park near here, raising hopes of a local NGO involved in their preservation.

Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment is running a hornbill conservation project at the national park, which can be entered from Lava, 32 km from here. Two species of the bird, pied hornbills and rufous-necked hornbills, have reportedly been spotted there by members of the NGO during the survey.

The rufous-necked variety is one of the most endangered species.

'The first stage of the project has already begun. We are conducting a survey in the national park with the help of the forest department,' said Suman Rai, the regional director of the organisation.

He added that the survey is expected to be completed by April.

'The second stage of the programme will find us working on a conservation strategy, which will be formulated according to the data collected from the survey,' Rai added.

The survey will try to determine the population of the birds and find out why they are on the verge of extinction, said Rai. 'There could be different reasons for the drop in their numbers. It could be due to factors like growth in human population in the rural areas or changes in the climate,' said Rai.

He added that evidence of the two species of hornbill inhabiting the national park area is interesting in itself because 'till now no one had officially declared the presence of hornbills there'. 'Officially only Arunachal Pradesh and Nepal in the eastern Himalayas have been declared hornbill habitation by Bird life International and the forest department,' said Rai.

Bird Life International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working for the world's birds and people.

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