BNHS: World Environment Day Special

Thursday, June 3, 2010

: : Thryza Dow : :

Mumbai’s famous winged visitor, the Lesser Flamingo, is threatened. So are several other species of birds. The number of endangered bird species has shot up to 154 in 2010 from 149 two years ago.

Guess who blows the wildlife whistle to alert the government and alarm people and conservationists? Well, if it is Mumbai then trust the over a century-old Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). This report is the latest of a study by BNHS with the international conservation body BirdLife International.

“Five new species worldwide have now entered the list of threatened birds including the great slaty woodpecker, black-chinned laughing thrush, great knot, grey bulbul and Japanese quail,” BNHS spokesperson Atul Sathe says.

“The great knot, which has been spotted in Maharashtra’s mudflats, was till recently a part of the least concerned list,” he says.

Research and conservation is a hallmark of BNHS with its projects spread across more than a dozen locations in India now.

BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society), a membership-driven organization, has been promoting the cause of a natural India for the past 126 years now.

Founded in 1883, by eight Mumbai citizens, of which two were Indians. The Society's guiding principle has always been that conservation must be based on scientific research - a tradition exemplified by its legendary former president, late Dr Sálim Ali.

The Society’s Mission Statement “Conservation of Nature, primarily Biological Diversity, through Action based on Research, Education and Public Awareness” aptly describes the organization’s scope of work.

Photo courtesy: BNHS BNHS is headquartered in Mumbai at Hornbill House and has Conservation Education Centres (CECs) in the suburb of Goregaon in Mumbai and in Asola Bhatti in Delhi.

Research at BNHS contributes towards identifying, monitoring and mitigating the adverse impact of unplanned non-sustainable developmental on natural environment.

Photo courtesy: BNHS (Vulture Conservation - Vulture slender-billed) BNHS has been involved in many research projects till now. The recent ones include Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres (VCBC) in Pinjore (Haryana), Rajabhatkhawa (West Bengal) and Rani (Assam); restoration of Point Calimere (Vedaranyam Swamp) eco-system and Migratory Birds Study Centre (Tamil Nadu); migratory birds tracking in Orissa and Uttar Pradesh; Caecilian Project; study of Great Indian Bustard; Project Elephant and identifying important bird areas (IBA).

BNHS runs ENVIS (Environmental Information System) Centre to study Avian Ecology and Inland Wetlands. Established by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, the Centre primarily deals with Avian Ecology and Inland Wetlands.

“Our conservation department of BNHS aims at surveying, networking, creating awareness and implementing conservation projects; often in association with corporates, Government and other NGOs,” says Atul Sathe.

BNHS conservation projects include conservation of Giant Clams (Lakshadweep), Eco-restoration of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Satpuda Landscape Tiger Program (Nagpur, Maharashtra) and Project Mangrove in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

BNHS has one of the most comprehensive natural history collections. The collection has a total of over 1,20,000 specimens, which include nearly 18,500 mammals, 29,000 birds, 5,400 bird eggs, 8,500 amphibians and reptiles and 50,000 insects.

The collection, which dates back over 100 years, covers the entire South Asia, including Afghanistan and Myanmar. The specimens in the natural history section of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya have also been contributed by BNHS.

BNHS also has a library that is one of the oldest and the largest on Natural History in India covering topics like Wildlife, Ecology, Zoology, Botany, Conservation and Sustainable Development. It also has an antique and unique collection of old books, rare lithographs, photo negatives and coloured transparencies of eminent naturalists.

The publication arm of BNHS is highly revered. BNHS publishes periodicals like Hornbill, BNHS Journal, Buceros and Mistnet. It has published nearly 40 books and 5 CDs on nature related topics.

Photo courtesy: BNHS - Collections The premier institution has been conducting scientific research in collaboration with international and national institutions like US Fish and Wildlife Service, BirdLife International, Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), Zoological Society of London, Wildlife Institute of India and University of Pune, to name a few.

Despite being an organization as old as 126 years BNHS is not resting in it past laurels. It has a series of new projects and collaborations lined up.

“BNHS plans to continue its conservation mission with renewed vigour and a scientific and professional approach by liasoning with various stake-holders in the civic society and reaching out to more and more people,” says Atul Sathe .

Its future plans thus include taking forward the vulture conservation breeding activity, conducting more research to identify more important bird areas.

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Written by: Thryza Dow


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