Unique conservation practice in Odisha- involving weaver birds, humans and palm trees

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Kendrapada: A very unique conservation exercise has been put in practice in the Kendrapada district of Odisha- involving weaver birds, humans and palm trees. Much enthusiastic response has been shown by people from many villages of this district and which in the coming years will address many problems. For this functions were organized in various villages located in Kendrapada Block, Patamundei Block and Mahakalpada Block of the district. Certificates were also distributed to participants in Weaver Birds Odisha Count 2019. These functions
and events were conducted under the ‘WEAVER BIRDS CONSERVATION PROGRAM’ by ‘Wild Orissa’, specially launched for conservation of weaver birds and their habitats in the state of Odisha. People were sensitized to the requirements of weaver bird species and their conservation.
It may be recalled that in an unprecedented mobilization of human resources for the cause of wildlife conservation in the Indian context, 560 (five hundred sixty) persons participated voluntarily in surveying and counting weaver birds in the just concluded Odisha Weaver Bird Count 2019 conducted by ‘Wild Orissa’ alongwith Odisha Chapter of the Indian Bird Conservation Network. Three species of weavers, belonging to family Ploceidae, are found in Odisha, viz., Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus, Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar and Black-breasted Weaver or Black-throated Weaver Ploceus benghalensis. The count resulted in (1)
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus- 15331 (fifteen thousands three hundred and thirty one) (2) Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar- 3000 (three thousands) (3) Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis- 35 (thirty five) viz.
Total weaver birds counted during 2019 in Odisha was: 18366 (eighteen thousands three hundred and sixty six)- an increase of 6690 number over 2018- an all time record for the state of Odisha and as well as the highest for any state in the country this year!
Kendrapada reported only 300 Baya Weaver birds and 140 nests this year.
The census showed as to how damaging Cyclone Fani has been on the breeding habitats of weaver species. Cutting of Palm Trees & Date Palm Trees and toddy extraction from Date Palm trees by people, was a reason as
to why weavers faced problems in nest building. Urban and semi-urban areas in Odisha, are becoming devoid of such trees due to which weaver birds are finding difficult to nest due to non-availability of proper trees.
What was indeed heartening to note is the large amount of love and affection which exists for the weaver birds in the state of Odisha. Being a species which predominantly inhabits human-dominated landscapes, it is extremely important to have local people’s support for their conservation. With these findings what was attempted in the Kendrapada district by ‘Wild Orissa’ was unique: to engage and mobilize people, in a similar manner as during the counting exercise, to plant and adopt Palm Trees. Planting palm trees was a traditional practice in villages in Odisha, but now discontinued over years due to emphasis on urbanization and
development. The important question of palm trees being able to mitigate against an ever increasing human deaths by lightning strikes, gained credence. 1,256 lightning human deaths have taken place in Odisha state in the last three years, most of them (about 85%) in the May-September period, accounting for about 27% of the total number of ‘disaster deaths’. Serious discussions, communication and sincerity in efforts witnessed people from all walks of life viz. elected representatives, teachers, students, agriculturists, small business, small
entrepreneurs, fishermen, homemakers, etc. to involve themselves with the story of palm trees, humans and weaver birds. People were explained the interconnectivity & linkages between weaver birds, human being and
palm tress and the need for survival for each of them.
Kendrapada was the first district chosen where plantation of Palm trees was promoted and assisted. Saplings were distributed by ‘Wild Orissa’ free of cost, and each person was assigned a plant for care and nurture for the
initial period, in a pure ‘volunteer’ approach. The important issue of interdependence of life of a weaver bird with that of humans and a palm tree was established and a conservation story woven.
Palms (Palmyra Palms): Also known as Toddy Palms, are familiar in Asian continent and they are called as Asian Palmyra Palms, Toddy Palms, Sugar Palms, Sweet Palms and in botanical terms known as Palmyra Palm or Borassus Flabellifer. The name Palmyra Palm has derived from the Portuguese word of palmeira and has become internationally familiar as Toddy Palm. It is called as, Tala in Odia, Thati Chettu in Telugu and PannaMaram in Tamil.
Toddy Palms are robust trees and can live more than 120 years and reach a height of 50-60 meters. The fruit is called Tala in Odia and sometimes Ice-apple in English, which is extremely rich in nutrients, providing hydration and a good balance of minerals and sugar for the human body. It is known to be used to treat digestive issues and stomach ailments in some parts of the country and considered to possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Further each part of the Palm Tree has got multitude of uses especially for cottage industry
with high economic value, many social benefits and employment potential.
Wild Orissa states that by addressing a very important issue of interdependence of life of a weaver bird with that of humans and a palm tree, a conservation story has been woven. Because alongwith providing a breeding habitat for the Baya Weaver birds, this tree will provide much benefits for humans and also generate respect for this tree.

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