Wildlife Research and Conservation Society

THT Conservation Grant 2023

Project Name:

Conservation of Forest Owlet by Multi-Stakeholder Engagement in Madhya Pradesh

Project Brief:

The Melghat-Satpura landscape is a geologically and ecologically unique area in Central India, and is known for its deccan trap formations, steep hills, deep gorges, wondrous mesic sites, prized teak tress, and large-sized gaurs and tigers. The reserved forests of Khandwa and Burhanpur divisions in Madhya Pradesh are contiguous with Melghat Tiger Reserve, which has the largest population of Forest Owlets in India. The Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti) is a small diurnal owl species endemic to Central India, categorised as Endangered as per the IUCN Red List. It is found in teak-bearing dry deciduous forests, and prefers plain regions and avoids hilly areas and high elevations. At present it is found at 12 locations in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The main threats to the species are deforestation due to encroachment, and forest degradation due to tree cutting, forest fire and grazing. Production forestry in Khandwa and Burhanpur districts affects the Forest Owlet by changing the forest structure.

WRCS aims to estimate the Forest Owlet population to get a definitive idea of its endangered status. For the same, they will partner with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department to develop forestry practices that are helpful in conservation of the Forest Owlet, and conduct training workshops for the field staff. Through this project, WRCS will declare two Forest Owlet Conservation Reserves and support the Forest Department in preparing draft management plans for both reserves. They will also engage with the community to co-develop solutions that will reduce the threat to the Forest Owlet. Trials will be conducted for nest boxes for the Forest Owlet, and they will distribute improved cook stoves to the community.

The proposed project draws from WRCS’s past work in the area and implements actions that will protect the habitat of the Forest Owlet in Reserved Forests. They have previously made a recommendation to the MP Forest Department for a conservation reserve in these districts. The proposed project will support this recommendation, and will help to establish a large continuous population over Melghat, Burhanpur and Khandwa.

Project objectives:
  • Declare two Forest Owlet Conservation Reserves and support the Forest Department in preparing draft management plans for both reserves.
  • Co-develop forest owlet-friendly timber harvesting practices with the Forest Department and conduct training workshops for the field staff.
  • Estimate the population of the Forest Owlet in Burhanpur and Khandwa divisions.
  • Co-develop a sustainable life style plan in consultation with the local community.
  • Conduct trials of nest boxes for the forest owlet.
  • Distribute improved cook stoves .
  • Carry out radio-telemetry study of forest owlet .
  • Assess the factor impacting breeding success of the Forest Owlet.
Highlights from the field:
  • This project is ongoing