TOURISM & WILDLIFE EDUCATION: Students trek Singalila, spot 58 species – 50 children from 5 darjeeling schools attend three-day workshop on bird watching

TOURISM & WILDLIFE EDUCATION: Students trek Singalila, spot 58 species – 50 children from 5 darjeeling schools attend three-day workshop on bird watching

Students at the bird-watching workshop at the Singalila National Park

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, May 31: Over 50 students from Classes VII to IX of five schools of Darjeeling have spent three days in the sylvan surroundings of the Singalila National Park learning the tricks of bird-watching and conserving their habitat.

Students of St Robert’s School, Gyanoday Niketan, Sunrise School, BSMI School and Saradeswari Girls’ School participated in a workshop-cum-training programme organised by WWF-India 10 days ago.

All the five institutions have Nature Clubs supported by the WWF-India that had brought together experienced bird watchers to conduct the workshop.

Participants at a theoretical session of the workshop organised by the WWF-India

“In the practical sessions, the participants (51 students to be precise) were taken on a two-day trip to Gairibas in Singalila (located above 5,000ft) and were given booklets on birds,” said Sanjeeb Pradhan, a senior project officer of the WWF-India posted in Darjeeling. “We have been organising these workshops to make children aware of the importance of conservation of birds as well as protection of their habitats.”

Darjeeling is house to over 500 species of birds including the elusive ones like the munal or Satyr tragopan.

“The basic focus was to teach the students the techniques of bird watching and correct bird identification,” Pradhan said “During their stay, the students were assisted to develop their bird-watching skills and hands-on experience (like how to handle binoculars). The participants could record 58 species during the workshop and even spotted the Satyr tragopan, a threatened bird that lives in the high altitudes of Singalila.”

The students also trekked to Tonglu to explore the plant and trees of the area, considered important for conservation of birds.

According to Pradhan, about 1,320 species of birds are found in India which is 13 per cent of the world’s winged population.

During the programme, foresters told the students that diverse geographical conditions ranging from the hot foothills to the snow- capped peaks lead to formation of different altitude zones with variation in rainfall, humidity, climate and vegetation. “These factors are responsible for the great variety of birds, thus making the Darjeeling hills one of the richest areas for bird sighting,” a senior forester said.

In the Sikkim Himalayas range of which Darjeeling is a part, about 550 species of birds can be sighted. “Along with the birds, we plan to make the school children aware of conservation of rhododendrons, butterflies, medicinal plants and other forms of biodiversity which is rich in the Darjeeling hills and is in need of conservation,” Pradhan said.

The forester suggested that similar training-cum-workshops could be organised for the guides who accompany tourists to Singalila. “We are working on the proposal as this will help the guides serve better and they will be in a better position to keep tabs on the avian population and contribute to the conservation,” said Pradhan.

Four new elephant squads

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, May 31: Four new elephant squads will be introduced by the forest department to check the number of animal attacks in north Bengal.

Four such squads already exist in Sukna in wildlife I, Malbazar in wildlife II, Binnaguri in Jalpaiguri, and Madarihat in wildlife III divisions. They help to ward off not only elephants but other animals like bison too.

Manindra Biswas, conservator of forest wildlife (north), said: “We have received permission from the principal chief conservator of forests, West Bengal, to introduce the new squads that will be raised at Birpara, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Belakoba and Bagdogra.”

While Birpara will be under Jalpaiguri division and Belakoba under Baikunthapur division, the squad at Bagdogra will be under the Kurseong forest division.

Biswas added that the squads at Birpara and Belakoba will start functioning from June.

“We have selected the staff. Initially we will hire a vehicle for each team and arms will be provided to the staff members. They will also be trained,” he said.

The four existing elephant squads, that help to steer animals back into the wild or make arrangements to tranquillise them when they raid human habitat, have to oversee an area of at least 100sqkm each.

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