‘Helping the skimmer skim’- Establishing a conservation model for Indian skimmers
The Indian skimmer is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and this species has almost become extinct from many countries in its distribution range in South-east Asia. Present known breeding records are only from India, which holds 90% of the total estimated breeding population. Our previous CLP project in the National Chambal Sanctuary indicated that the major threat to the Indian skimmer breeding population is low nesting success and low recruitment in the population. Predation of eggs and chicks by free-ranging dogs and trampling of eggs and chicks by cattle have been the two major causes underpinning low nesting success. Understanding that community empowerment is key to sustaining long-term conservation, this project will establish a community-based conservation model to improve Indian skimmer nesting success. This model will include the protection of vulnerable nesting islands and sandbars from predation and trampling, by offering incentives and training to nest guardians from local communities, and management of the nesting habitat. The team will test the efficiency of this guardian programme by comparing the nesting success of guarded islands with the control islands for two years. Part of this model will include capacity-building of local people and the Forest Department staff in monitoring nesting success and managing the nesting sites in both the sanctuaries. This project aims to improve the nesting success of skimmers from 10-14% to 25% at both sites. The conservation model will be endorsed for incorporation in the conservation management plan of the two sites and promoted for wider replication across the entire Indian skimmer breeding range in India.