Irregularities in Non-Profits’ Owl Conservation Efforts (Download PDF)

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Irregularities in Non-Profits՚ Owl Conservation Efforts

  • A forest inquiry has found irregularities in a non-profit՚s owl conservation efforts.
  • The non- profit is involved in owl conservation in core area inside the Melaghat Tiger Reserve.
  • Melaghat Tiger Reserve is in Maharashtra.


  • The forest department admitted violations of norms by the Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS) over the conservation of the endemic forest owlet and other owl species.
  • WRCS is based out of Pune.
  • The violations have become known after an RTI (Right to Information) inquiry.
  • The non-profit had sought permission from the state forest department to tag owls in Melaghat.
  • The society sought permission for two projects:
    • A study of ecology, distribution, and population of critically endangered forest owlet (Athene blewitti) in non-protected areas of East and West Melaghat Forest division, Maharashtra.
    • An ecological study of forest owlet and other owls using radio telemetry in Melaghat Tiger Reserve.
  • The forest owlet is endemic to the forests of central India.
  • The forest owlet is listed as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (IUCN) since 2018.
  • Its population is estimated to be less than 1,000 mature individuals.
  • Before its rediscovery in 1997, the species was thought to be extinct for over 100 years.
  • It was then categorized as a Schedule-1 species under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for protection.
  • WRCS sought permission for radio telemetry of seven owl species-
    • Spotted owlet
    • Jungle owlet
    • Indian scoops
    • Indian Eagle owl
    • Mottled Wood Owl
    • Brown Fish Owl
    • Barn owl
  • The non-profit carried out the banding and re-banding of these species without permissions.
  • The radio tagging permit did not include the forest owlet for research.
  • Thus, WRCS worked till June 30,2020 without authorized permission as the permit for tagging forest owlets was due in July 2019.
  • More number of owls than the permitted were colour banded.
  • The non-profit also entered core area to capture the owls.
  • No technical expert was present while banding the owls.
  • The duration of the banding also exceeded the protocol time, exposing the bird to stress for a longer period.

- Published/Last Modified on: December 30, 2020

Environment/Ecology, Down-to-Earth

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