Inside Out: Ecological Assessment of Forest Owlet in Khandwa District, Madhya Pradesh

Khandwa Forest Owlet Study - The Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti) is endemic to central India and is found in teak dominant dry deciduous forests of Satpuda hills in Central India. During 2005-2007, extensive survey on Forest Owlet from its past and recent locations in 5 Central Indian States was carried out by WRCS. The survey was successful in locating two new sites in the State of Madhya Pradesh and many new locations in Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra.  The survey could not locate Forest Owlet in Orissa, Chhattisgarh (both type localities) and in Gujarat  Since this was a rapid survey, non-detection may not always point to its absence but the change in land-use and increase in biotic influences may have contributed to its possible  disappearance from the area. Our survey located two new sites of Forest Owlet in Madhya Pradesh that were in teak forests that were being maintained for timber logging. Since Forest Owlets are mainly found in teak forests, the impact of timber logging could be an important determinant for its survival.

Considering the rarity of the species, WRCS designed a project to study the impact of timber harvesting on Forest Owlet in Madhya Pradesh with a focus on its understanding its population, ecology and demography. The Forest Owlet is in Critically endangered category owing to its small population which is suspected to be declining due to loss of habitat. The study is examining the habitat factors associated with its site occupancy, nesting, breeding and dispersal. In Madhya Pradesh, the Forest Owlets are found in the Reserved Forests of Khandwa and Burhanpur districts. Both the districts have extensive teak forests and some regions are being logged for timber by the Forest Department. One of the important objectives of this study is to evaluate the impact of logging operations on the Forest Owlet and advise the Forest Department on appropriate forestry practices for its conservation in Madhya Pradesh.

Supported by Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi; Raptor Research and Conservation Fund, Mumbai and Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, UAE.