The Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti) is a small 23 cm owlet endemic to Central India. This species was once known to be almost extinct until recent sighting in the forest of Central India in Melghat in 1997. Regular sightings of this owlet are documented from Melghat near Nagpur, Tansa near Mumbai, Nashik and Toranmal regions in Maharashtra and some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states. It is listed as Schedule I species of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the highest protection possible for an owl species in India. This is also listed as Critically Endangered in IUCN Red List and also listed under CITES Appendix I.
The owlet prefers deciduous forest habitat especially dominated by teak trees. They are mostly diurnal but active during early morning and late evening hours. Due to its shy nature, these owlets are quite difficult to be sighted and generally they go unrecorded. An estimated global population of this species is 300-400 all around Central India. The threats to this species include habitat destruction, cutting of teak wood for commercial purpose and forest fires. Conservation efforts include an awareness and education programme among villagers on the significance of saving the forest owlet, avoiding forest fires and saving teak forests.
Photo courtesy: Rajneesh Suvarna
On the Brink is our regular column on endangered species in Ecotrail our bimonthly magazine on Environment and Education.