Veerapuram Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Chilamathur Mandal, Anantapur, Arunachal Pradesh Mixed Species Protection12.14 Not Available

Case Study (2009)

Background

The villagers have taken effective action towards conservation in Veerapuram village. This village is situated in the Chilamathur Mandal of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh. The village is located at a distance of about 100 km from Bangalore. This area receives an average annual rainfall of about 600 mm and the temperature varies from 18 degrees C to 40 degrees C during the year.

Most of the forests are widely scattered and a majority of them are dry deciduous or open scrub. The flora includes tellatumma, sundra, pedda manu, narlingi, yapa, yon, sopera, rohi, etc., with common weeds like lantana and korintha. The major fauna of the region includes the leopard, jungle cat, wolf, jackal, sloth bear, four-horned antelope, chital, Indian wild boar, chinkara, etc. The common avifauna found here includes bulbuls, parakeets, Indian peafowl, snipes, teals, woodpeckers, etc., along with migratory waterfowl like Northern pintail, black ibis, glossy ibis, black-headed ibis, spotbill duck, painted stork, pelicans, etc.

The village consists of 150 households with a total population of about 600. The dominant community residing here is the Kapu (Reddy) community, whose main occupation is agriculture and sericulture. The common crops grown are paddy, bajra and groundnut. Borewells and traditional irrigation tanks are used as the major sources of irrigation in the village.

There are dozens of small and medium tanks within a 5-km radius of the village, of which Veerapuram tank is one. This tank has a water-spread area of about 30 acres, with agricultural dry lands on one side and a couple of hillocks on the other, which form the catchment of this tank. These tanks are a major source of food for many resident and migratory birds in this area.

Some of the avian visitors such as the painted storks, pelicans and white ibises have been nesting in the village since time immemorial. The villagers perceive the arrival of painted storks as a good omen and offer protection to them. A few storks arrive during the months of DecemberJanuary to scout the area and are followed within a few days by thousands of them (about 5000 this year). A couple of days after their arrival in the village, the birds start building their nests on the trees within the village. The village has about 20 tree species, including chinta, nallatumma, sarkaritumma, rai and ganuga, with a sparse canopy, on which their nests are built. Grey herons also nest on the same trees, whereas white ibises only roost on them during the night.

In 2002, the highest number of painted storks (about 5000) came for breeding purposes to the lake. Two pelicans had also arrived then but they did not nest in the village. According to the villagers, during the last 10 years pelicans have stopped nesting in the village: they arrive at the beginning of the season (December-January), survey the place but do not breed. White ibises roost on the same trees during the night but they are not seen breeding in the vicinity.

Although the birds do not face any kind of threats from the host village, there are other threats faced by them:

• Due to heavy rains in the monsoons some of the chicks fall out of their nests.

• Indiscriminate hunting near Karnataka border, which is only 2 km away from the village, is a major cause for concern. In 2001-2, about 100 chicks starved to death as their parent birds did not return to the nests, probably killed by the poachers.

• There is a lack of nesting space as the old trees are dying.

• Large-scale fishing in the tanks in the vicinity is depriving the birds of stable feeding grounds.

• The tamarind trees in the village where the storks build their nests are being auctioned by the panchayat for fruit, and while harvesting the bidders cause disturbance to the birds.

• Heavy silting of the feeding tanks has resulted in less water storage, and the tank dries up before the breeding season ends.

• Some of the trees on which the birds build their nests are in private lands. The villagers have so far been able to convince the owners not to cut the trees despite their need; however, they feel that this is only a short-term solution.

However, the villagers’ efforts towards protection of birds have been recognized by a number of NGOs who have come forward to help the villagers. An NGO called PFA (People for Animals) from Bangalore is involved in nurturing the injured or orphaned chicks in a small temporary enclosure. An individual based in Puttaparthi in Anantapur district is also extending support to the young ones for their rehabilitation. Another NGO called Chaitanya, based in Lepakshi, offered a few thousand seedlings of tilapia fish to be released in Veerapuram tank during the last season as part of improving their feeding grounds. The Institute of Bird Studies and Natural History of Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh along with their staff and Mr. Ashish Pittie from Birdwatchers’ Society of Andhra Pradesh planted five saplings in the village. They also facilitated villagers coming together and taking an oath for the conservation of the birds.

The Andhra Pradesh Government has initiated work for eco-tourism. The villagers, especially the youth, are enthusiastic and committed to conserving the birds. Six people from Kokkere Bellur (in Karnataka), another successful community-conserved heronry, visited Veerapuram last year and suggested to the local villagers that they could use the large quantity of bird droppings lying under the trees as manure for their agricultural lands. However, the villagers did not do this as they feel that scraping off the waste from under the trees might expose the roots and ultimately result in the death of the trees. Villagers are currently considering setting up a rehabilitation center for the rescued birds in an old community building in the village.

The villagers have resolved to seal off the sluice gate of the tank for the last seven years to make fish available to the birds during the season. They also opined that auctioning of tanks for fishing should be banned in the entire revenue village for this purpose. 

Short Term Activities:

• Supply of fast-growing saplings for plantation within the village. Locals preferred banyan and pipal trees.

• Incentives/rewards for encouraging the efforts of the villagers in conservation.

• Education to the villagers on rehabilitation of injured chicks that fall out of their nests.

• Audio-visual education on conservation for the children of the village.

• Supply of fish seedlings for release in tanks around the village.

Long Term Activities:

• Take effective measures for desilting the tanks for increased storage of water.

• Improve the feeding grounds by releasing seedlings of tilapia fish.

• Work with the forest department of Gudibanda Division of Karnataka to take effective steps to check hunting of storks and other birds in the tanks around Veerapuram on their side.

• Closely monitor the impacts of the proposed eco-tourism on the health of the heronry.

• Conduct exposure visits to other community-conserved heronries like Kokkrebelur in Karnataka and Pedullapalle in AP.

• Organise the villagers into a group and get it registered.

• Promote income generation through eco-tourism in order to raise funds for basic maintenance of the rehabilitation center.

• Explore the possibility of forming a Tree Growers’ Co-operative Society of Veerapuram for regeneration of the hillock that forms the catchment of the Veerapuram tank, in order to reduce the siltation (soil run-off) into the tank.

Unlike Nellapatu (see the case study for details), the enthusiasm among the villagers for conservation of this heronry is still very high. The conservation lies in the hands of people with a strong sense of ownership. The conservation efforts in this heronry can be further beneficial through implementing programmes designed with the people.

  This case study was contributed by Suresh Jones and Dr. Subba Rao, Foundation for Ecological Security, Andhra Pradesh, in July 2002.

Team Leader
Foundation for Ecological Society
AP Project
17-89-1, NVR Layout, Gandhi Road
Mandanapalle - 517325
Chittoor district
Andhra Pradesh
E-mail: [email protected]

This case study was part of the Directory on Community Conserved Areas (2009), published by Kalpavriksh. The directory can be downloaded here.

Recent Updates

Veerapuram-winged visitors’ destination

An article on painted storks found in Veerapuram village in Chilamattur mandal and how they are protected by the villagers.

Anantapur: Drought-hit villagers host migratory birds

An article on how the painted storks continue to migrate to Rayalaseema’s drought hit villages, the same way they have done for over a century.

Biodiversity sites in State await recognition

An article in The Hindu hoping that villages like Veerapuram get their due recognition, which will empower locals.

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