|Bugun liocichla. Picture courtesy: Ramana Athreya
Guwahati, July 27: The colourful plumage and distinctive cry of the Bugun liocichla, a species of babbler that was described as new to science barely eight years ago, might not be seen for long.
“The bird has been reclassified as critically endangered on the basis that its apparently extremely small population is inferred to be declining owing to habitat loss and degradation,” the IUCN Red List update for this year says.
The bird was earlier classified as vulnerable.
Ramana Athreya, a bird watcher and an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, had described the bird as “new to science” in 2006.
The bird was found at Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary in West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh.
“The problem is that the bird is restricted to an area of only 2 square km in the sanctuary and has not been confirmed from any other place,” Athreya told The Telegraph.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on plants, fungi and animals that have been globally evaluated.
“There are only three known localities at present. Analysis of the distribution of apparently suitable habitat suggests it could range more widely in Arunachal Pradesh and also into neighbouring Bhutan and China. However, a survey in May 2007 found very few additional suitable areas in western Kameng district. Given its striking plumage and distinctive vocalisations, it is unlikely that the species could have escaped detection for so long if it were relatively common,” the report stated.
Eaglenest, which covers an area of 217 square km, derives its name from the Red Eagle Division of the army, which was posted in the area in the 1950s.
The sanctuary is home to at least 450 species of birds, including babblers, herons, black storks, ducks, hawks, eagles, kites, vultures, falcons, pheasants, jungle fowl, quails, woodpeckers, warblers and cormorants.
The report said in 2012-2013, habitat at Lama Camp in the sanctuary was further fragmented by the construction of a new road, which is expected to lead to more habitat degradation in the vicinity.
Uncontrolled fires also pose a risk to the habitat.
At the sanctuary, fire affected a large area from Lama Camp to Sunderview in February 2013.
“Increasing tourism could pose a long-term threat if it remains unregulated,” the IUCN Red List report stated.