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, WRCS carried out extensive surveys on the Forest Owlet in areas with known past and recent records in five central Indian States. The survey was successful in locating two new sites in the State of Madhya Pradesh and many new locations in Melghat Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra. The survey could not locate Forest Owlet in the states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh (both type localities) or 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 these areas. Our survey located two new sites of Forest Owlet in Madhya Pradesh that were in teak forests, and 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 Owlets in Madhya Pradesh with a focus on understanding its population, ecology and demography. The Forest Owlet is a Critically Endangered bird 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 Owlet is 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.
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This project is supported by Raptor Research and Conservation Foundation, Mohamed bib Zayed Species Conservation Foundation. The Madhya Pradesh Department is a partner in this project.