GUWAHATI, March 18 - It was a much-awaited moment of freedom for little Diya as she fluttered her wings to join some 300 feathered friends at the city�s Boragaon garbage dump on Thursday morning.
The rescued greater adjutant stork (hargila in local parlance) � lovingly named Diya � belongs to a rare species with a dwindling count and which is endemic to only a few habitats. Diya, then three-and-a-half-months old, had a fall from her nest atop a 75-foot kadam tree at Dadara village on February 18. She had serious head and leg injuries, but thanks to the care by local communities, she got a new lease of life.
It was a joint endeavour by the Assam State Zoo, the Kamrup district administration and conservation NGO Aaranyak that facilitated the successful release of this precious member of the endangered greater adjutant stork on Thursday.
The Dadara-Pacharia-Singimari village complex on the city outskirts harbours the highest number of greater adjutant storks and is recognised as its biggest nesting colony in the world. Partha Sarathi Mahanta, Commandant of 4th Battalion, Kahilipara, and SK Seal Sharma, DFO, Assam State Zoo, released Diya near the Boragaon garbage dump in the presence of a group of wildlife conservationists, research scholars and local residents.
�Hargila, like the rhino, is the pride of Assam, and releasing one individual in the wild makes a big difference to an endangered species. I will always be a part of such noble endeavours,� Mahanta, who has helped Aaranyak in many such similar rescues, said.
Seal Sharma added that the Forest authorities would always lend a helpful hand for the cause of the endangered bird. He appreciated the support of the Kamrup district administration and Kamrup Police in rescuing the species.
After rescuing her, the villagers of Dadara approached Aaranyak for support. Aaranyak and local Forest guards then transported the injured bird to the Hajo Range office for preliminary care. Later, the bird�s critical condition warranted its treatment at the Assam State Zoo under the care of Zoo vet Dr Bhaben Kakoti.
The bird was named after a four-year-old girl, Diya Darshana Kashyap, who is a niece of a tree owner at Dadara and has witnessed greater adjutants in their campus since her birth. She was also present at the event with her parents.
�We have two kadam trees in our backyard and she keeps her eyes alert for any stork that may fall from the nest. She wishes to be a greater adjutant researcher as she sees the Aaranyak researchers working for this species in her backyard. We are surprised as well as proud,� Diya�s parents,
Mahesh Das and Mridula Das, said.
Dr Parag Deury from the Rani Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre, run by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), put a monitoring ring on Diya�s leg to keep track of her post-release status.
Purnima Devi Barman, who is the coordinator of the Greater Adjutant Conservation Programme of Aaranyak, sounded confident of the future of the species.
�This is our 15th such release in the wild and Diya�s is the first release for this year�s breeding season. Community is the key player for conservation of this endangered bird as it primarily takes shelter in privately-owned nesting trees. Only nest tree owners� support can save this bird from extinction,� she said.
The Kamrup district administration has supported Aaranyak with 120 nets to be fitted under nesting trees of greater adjutants to save fallen chicks, in addition to 15 conservation hoardings and a rescue vehicle along with other support in kind for conservation of the biggest nesting colony of the endangered bird.
Incidentally, Kamrup district harbours over 50 per cent of its global population. The current global population of the bird is just around 1,000 and is distributed only across Assam and Bihar in India, and Prek Toal of