IN225
Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Rollapadu is a small village, 18 km southeast of Nandikotkur town, in the plains between the Nallamalai and Erramalai ranges of the Eastern Ghats. The River Krishna flows northwest of Nandikotkur. Rollapadu shot to fame in July 1984 when a flock of 35 Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps was discovered (Manakadan and Rahmani 1989, 1993). Recommendations were made by the Endangered Species Project of the Bombay Natural History Society to the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department to establish a sanctuary. Soon after, the State Forest Department declared the Rollapadu Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary. The Sanctuary, though established primarily to protect the Great Indian Bustard, has benefited the rest of the wildlife in the area. Prior to its establishment, the animals were persecuted by professional trappers and hunters from nearby towns and villages (Manakadan and Rahmani 1989). Most of the Sanctuary is covered by grasses. Shrubs and small trees are common near the two small streams that flow within the Sanctuary.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: In the 1980s, there were about 60-70 bustards in and around Rollapadu and the Sanctuary was developing very well, but due to subsequent mismanagement of the grasslands, and poaching of bustards during their movement away from Rollapadu, the bustard population has come down drastically. Not more than 20-25 birds remain. Large flocks of 15-20 birds are rarely sighted now. Another globally threatened species that is now regularly seen is the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (Sankaran and Manakadan 1990, Manakadan and Rahmani 1999). About 150 bird species are reported in and around Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, including the second largest roost of harriers (Circus spp.) in India (Rahmani and Manakadan 1986). Nearly 2,000 harriers of four species are found in the grasslands (Circus pygargus, C. macrourus, C. aeruginosus and C. melanoleucos). This site can easily qualify for A4ii criteria (known or thought to hold, on a regular basis, >1% of the global population of a congregatory seabird or terrestrial species).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The most conspicuous mammal, which has benefited most from protection, is the Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra. In 1985, its population was not more than 17 individuals. Now, it has gone up to 500 (Forest Department records, and our observations). A pack of Grey Wolf Canis lupus inhabits the Rollapadu grasslands. Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis is also found, and shows great fluctuations in population.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Poaching; Irresponsible management inputs; Irrigation projects.

The decline in bustard population has been blamed on the increase of the Blackbuck population from 15-20 in 1985 to nearly 500 in 2002, but this alone can not be the reason. Most of the time, the majority of the bustards remain outside the Sanctuary, where they are not safe from poachers. The goodwill among villagers generated by the development of the Sanctuary has been nullified by the crop damage caused by Blackbuck. Based on two 3-years studies, the BNHS had recommended that Blackbuck numbers should be reduced to less than 100 individuals, and poaching of bustard should be stopped, but this has not been done. Instead, the Forest Department wasted funds on the development of a fence (to prevent Blackbuck from going outside the grasslands) and on construction Increasing scrub vegetation in the grasslands (Manakadan et al. 2002) is another cause for concern, as it is reducing the bustard habitat. However, the greatest and irrevocable threat to the Great Indian Bustard is the development of a large irrigation project 3 km from Rollapadu that will change the land use and crop patterns of the area completely. In future, there will be less area available to the bustard for foraging and nesting. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor the movement of the bustards, through satellite and radio tracking, to record its use of the surrounding landscape and then to develop a long-term conservation strategy to protect pockets of grasslands where the bustards spend most of their time. A holistic approach is required to save the bustard habitat, otherwise the measures taken at Rollapadu will not succeeded in reviving the bustard population.

Acknowledgements
Key contributors: A. R. Rahmani, Ranjit Manakadan and Thulsi Rao.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2022.