Living on the Edge: The Forest Owlets of Toranmal

Forest Owlet Survey - Located along the Satpura hills amidst teak trees, Toranmal is a popular hill station in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra. Apart from this, Toranmal is also known to support the rare and endemic forest owlet. The records of forest owlet dates back to the 19th century (1874 by J. Davidson who collected 4 specimens from Taloda) and inspite all the odds, the species continues to survive there. However, the Forest Owlet population in Toranmal is suspected to be declining rapidly due to loss of habitat. In 2004, a BNHS study reported six pairs and 7 individual forest owlets from Toranmal but subsequent surveys by researchers in 2009 and 2011 could locate only one pair from the same area. It is difficult to infer from this if the birds have perished from the site or have moved out but the ongoing anthropogenic pressures has resulted in considerable degradation of the forests in the entire area. The forest owlet population in Toranmal is isolated and located at a distance of about 500 km from the next population in Melghat Tiger Reserve. Protection of forest owlet population in Nandurbar district is important considering that the species can become locally extinct due to habitat loss as it is being inferred from their absence in Odisha. WRCS is carrying out an occupancy survey of forest owlet in Nandurbar district and adjoining Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary in Jalgaon District. The survey is being carried out in earlier known locations and other ranges of the Nandurbar and Yawal Forests which have not been assessed earlier. The survey will help in establishing the extent of the forest owlet distribution in Northern Maharashtra. The project is being supported by Maharashtra Forest Department.