Kerala recreating Salim Ali’s famous bird survey (With Image)

January 3rd, 2009 - 11:56 am ICT by IANS  

Munnar (Kerala) Jan 3 (IANS) Exactly this day 75 years ago, India’s best-known birdman Salim Ali started a survey that is still considered a benchmark in ornithology. A group of bird lovers is restarting the same survey from the same spot Saturday.Ali carried out his survey on 172 days spread out over the entire year, at 19 different locations in what were then the princely states of Travancore and Cochin. Three of the 19 locations are in present-day Tamil Nadu.

The Kerala State Biodiversity Board and its Forest and Wildlife Department have taken the initiative to start the survey at Marayuur near here, the spot from which Ali had started. They will end on Dec 31, as Ali did.

The livewire of the project and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests,T.M. Manoharan, said: “A lot of bird enthusiasts and students of Ali are coordinating with the four-member core team who will actually do the survey.

“The forest department will play the role of facilitator and we are deputing a handful of our staff who are enthusiasts so as to build a special team for the future,” Manoharan told IANS.

But unlike Ali, the present survey team is armed with digital cameras and global positioning system (GPS) equipment. Like Ali, they will carry binoculars and call recorders.

E. Kunhikrishnan, a zoology professor at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, and a keen ornithologist, said that Kerala is one state where bird surveys take place every year. “This event is just to re-live the exploits of the great ornithologist Ali.”

“Kerala today has more than 500 varieties of birds and the present survey would do a comparative study with the famous book written by Ali then, the ‘Ornithology of Travancore and Cochin’,” said Kunhikrishnan. He will be a facilitator to the survey team.

In 1933, bird specimens were collected, different parameters of each bird were recorded and then the skin was processed and stored at the Bombay Natural History Museum.

Each collection centre was marked using a magnetic compass and the altitude of each station using altimeter. No attempt was made to study the population or density of each species.

Ali’s wife Tehmina accompanied him during the survey. The lesser golden-backed woodpecker, found in Kerala, is named after her (Dinopium benghalense tehminae).

Manoharan added that the Kerala Council for Historical Research has also shown interest in joining the survey team.

“They would be interested in the historical aspect and this is going to add colour to our efforts. At each location the team will interact with students and those interested in ornithology,” he said.

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