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Holistic Approach to Protection

Ranjit Lal

By Asad R. Rahmani
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 861, Rs.3000.00


My first reaction to this book was shock and horror: Shock that the subject needed such a monumental tome to do justice to it. And horror that there were so many birds that required special care and protection—like patients in a rather large intensive care unit. The genesis of the book is interesting. According to Rahmani about three to four years ago, at a meeting of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, the Secretary complained that there was no book which gave ready information on different threatened taxa in India, and even for birds, that are relatively better known, there was not any ready reckoner for decision makers. He suggested that the BNHS should bring out a book on the rare birds of India. Well, in that short period of time, they have done just that (and it must have been a monumental project requiring mind boggling coordination), and therefore the ball is now clearly back in the court of the Ministry: to read and take heed and more importantly take action. As Rahmani points out, the purpose of the book is ‘to publish existing and new information on the threatened birds of India to make it easily accessible to Indian decision makers, policy makers (do you copy?!) field conservationists, ornithologists, bird watchers, media and civil society in general.’ While Rahmani’s introduction to the book is simple and lucid, the ‘specialist’ chapters on the horrendous impact of pesticide contamination, bird trapping, the impact of large dams, the management of terai grasslands, are scientific and technical enough to gladden the heart of any ‘expert’ in the government perusing the chapter relevant to his or her discipline. Back in 2004 the BNHS brought out an equally monumental publication on the inventory of Important Bird Areas in India, with the help of conservationists, managers of Protected Areas, Bird Life International and the RSPB. This book is a sort of follow up to that and is a ‘fine example of worldwide collaboration among organizations and individuals. It is based on the Bird Life/IUCN 2011 list and contains India-specific information relevant to researchers and decision makers in the country'. Of the 153 species that make this unfortunate list (of which, 41 are endemic), 15 are critically endangered, 15 endangered, 52 vulnerable, 66 near threatened, and two ‘data deficient’. (There are three ‘additional’ species from the Andamans.) One of the problems in putting together a ‘database’ like this is ...

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