Forest Owlet

The forest owlet (Athene blewitti) is a rare, small-sized and diurnal owl endemic to India listed as Endangered in the ICUN red list. It is legally protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The forest owlet was considered extinct for about 113 years before being rediscovered in Khandesh, Maharashtra in 1997. Its geographic distribution is limited to Central India and the Northern Western Ghats with documented records at only five locations in India. It prefers open dry deciduous broad-leaved forests interspersed with agricultural fields or clearings.  

The Forest Owlet Project focuses on understanding the population status, distribution and breeding biology of the forest owlet. Our study area is in the Dangs, a district situated in south Gujarat bordering Maharashtra, which forms a part of the northern Western Ghats. The landscape lacks long-term ecological studies and has seen several local extinctions due to hunting and habitat loss. The discovery of the forest owlet has sparked conservation interest, and recognising the forest owlet as a flagship species is crucial for the conservation of other flora and fauna in the landscape.   

The main goals of the project are to: 

  1. Develop a comprehensive understanding of the population status, occupancy and breeding biology of the forest owlet in the Dangs. 
  2. Identify key stakeholders in the landscape and design participatory approaches towards forest owlet conservation.  
  3. Raise awareness and develop local capacity to preserve the species and its natural habitat.   

We aim to create a comprehensive Conservation Action Plan at the landscape level to ensure the long-term persistence of the species in the northern western Ghats.  

 

Team

Kaushal G. Patel

Kaushal holds a M.Sc. in Biotechnology from Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat, Gujarat with valuable experience in genetic research and conservation projects. In 2015-16, he secured funding for forest owlet status and distribution surveys in the Dangs region and reported the second-largest population. In collaboration with the local Forest Department, he initiated Dangs Bird Festival which helped to document the avifauna in the region and to spread awareness among wildlife enthusiasts and birders. In 2020, he joined the WCS-India and was a part of the Carnivore and Herbivore Conservation and Ecology team in the Andhra-Telangana landscape. Currently, Kaushal is working on Forest owlet conservation in the dry deciduous forest landscapes of the Dang district in northern Western Ghats.


 

Anant Pande 

Anant has a PhD in Wildlife Science from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. His doctoral research focused on understanding breeding biology and genetic connectivity of cavity-nesting Antarctic seabirds. He has previously worked with a multitude of marine taxa including Antarctic krill, dugongs, pelagic seabirds, and baleen whales. He also served as a key team member in developing the National Biodiversity Targets, revision of National Biodiversity Action Plan and reviewing Marine Protected Area network in India. He supervises the Forest Owlet Conservation Project with a broad interest towards understanding the species biology in lesser-known landscapes.


 

Recent Publications

  •  Jambu N. & Patel K. (2021) Birds of Surat-Dangs: a consolidated checklist of last 75 years (1944-2018) with special emphasis on noteworthy bid records and bird hotspots from Northern Western Ghats of Gujarat state. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 13(7): 18752–18780https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.6259.13.7.18752-18780
  • Patel K., Patel M., Shinde A., Baraiya H., Patel Z., Prjapati K. and Naik K. (2023). Kevdi Bird Festival 2023.Wildlife Conservation Society - India Report.

 

Credits: Photos - Kaushal Patel

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