Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
The Forest Owlet has a tiny, severely fragmented population, known from fewer than 12 recent locations in Central India. However, this newfound population near Mumbai comes as a new hope for the the survival of the species.
To start the New Year with a bang, Saurabh Sawant, Rujuta Phadke and myself went to Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary near Mumbai where Sunil Laad — a naturalist associated with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) — had sighted and photographed the Critically Endangered Forest Owlet in November 2014.
We had just parked our car to stop and search when, to our incredulity, we heard a Forest Owlet calling. It took us just 10 more minutes to locate a beautiful pair of owlets staring at us. We kept our distance from the birds and watched in amazement as the owlet closed its eyes and took an early-afternoon siesta.
After its original description by A. O. Hume based on a specimen collected by F. R. Blewitt in Madhya Pradesh on 14th December 1872, the Forest Owlet was re-discovered after a gap of 113 years in 1997 by American ornithologists Ben King and Pamela Rasmussen. This species has a tiny, severely fragmented population, known from fewer than 12 recent locations in Central India. However this newfound population of Forest Owlet comes as a new hope for this species. The surveys in suitable habitat between central India and western Maharastra may provide a better understanding of the distribution and population of this species in the future.
Being on the verge of extinction, the Forest Owlet is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, and its hunting or trapping is prohibited in India. It is also listed on CITES Appendix I and II.