GUWAHATI, Oct 7 - Nagaon used to have the largest colony of the greater adjutant stork 15 years back, but today, only two trees of Khutikotiya area remain as the last vestige of the once-flourishing habitat.
Rapid disappearance of trees constituting the adjutant stork�s habitat has been the factor behind the plummeting population of the bird species. The trees � mostly cotton (simul) including those owned by people � had been cut down for development, constructions, etc.
In a bid to sensitize the local people on the highly endangered status of the greater adjutant stork and the need for preservation of its nesting trees, Aaranyak in collaboration with local NGOs Laokhowa Burha-chapori and Green Guard, organized an awareness-cum-felicitation programme named �Hargilla Mitra� at Sensowa Amar Borkakoti High School at Nagaon on Tuesday.
The highlight of the event was the enthusiastic participation of the students who along with other participants pledged to do their best to save the elusive bird. Senimai Bora, the principal of the school, administered the oath. Also present was Sanjay Rajkhowa, gaonburha of Khutikotiya village.
Dimpi Bora, Assistant Conservator of Forests, was the chief guest on the occasion and sensitized the children on wildlife conservation.
Purnima Devi Barman of Aaranyak, who has been engaged in greater adjutant stork conservation with community participation at Dadara in Kamrup district, made an audiovisual presentation on the bird for children. Jayanta Pathak and Arif Hussain conducted a quiz event on hargilla � as the bird is known in Assamese.
�The greater adjutant stork lives among human settlements, but it also needs water bodies nearby to survive. The conservation of this species is impossible without the cooperation of local inhabitants who own the trees where the hargilla builds their nests,� Purnima said.
The few tree-owners of Nagaon were also honoured with the Hargilla Mitra Award for encouraging them to protect the greater adjutant stork�s nesting habitat. The tree-owners were overwhelmed with the gesture and pledged to preserve the bird�s habitat.
The Aaranyak team made door-to-door visits to tree-owners Dharmaraj Hazarika, Nirola Bora and Devakumar Sarma and ceremoniously presented them with the honour under the nesting trees.
�It is for the first time in my life that I am receiving an honour for protecting a tree where the hargilla lives. I love this bird and wish to protect it for life. No honour can be bigger than this for me,� Nirola Bora, a tree-owner said.
Dhramaraj Hazarika said that he was protecting the rare species in his backyard as his family members. He also sounded confident that his daughter and son would carry forward the legacy of conservation.
A group of students from Gauhati University also joined the event to volunteer and learn the community awareness methodology.
The schoolchildren, who won prizes in a drawing competition on the occasion, were Gauri Shankar Kalita (class VI), Dhon Singh Teron (class VI), Debojyoti Das (class VI), Pallavi Medhi (class VI), Madhurima Das (class VII), Piku Mahalu (class VII), Sunami Das (class VIII) and Simpi Das (class VIII).
Greater adjutant stork is a dying breed and currently found only in India (Assam, Bihar) and Cambodia. There are only 1,200 such storks alive at present, out of which 80 per cent are found in Assam.