Marabú argala: Indian women want to save it

Marabú argala is an endangered native shrub of Mexico and Central America facing imminent extinction. Indian women in Guerrero, Mexico, have launched an environmental campaign to raise awareness about the plant’s plight and have made it their mission to protect and preserve this plant species. These urban and rural Indian women are taking action to help save the marabú argala before it is too late.

According to a popular tradition, very widespread in the world, storks are the bearers of good news, since they are in charge of bringing new babies to families. However, some species of these birds are not well accepted and are in serious danger of extinction. This is the case of the marabou argala, one of the largest and most imposing storks in the world. But a group of women in India is working to save the species.

Marabou argala

The marabou argala may disappear

It used to inhabit the wetlands of Cambodia, India and Pakistan. However, it is now very rare to see them in their natural habitat. It is estimated that there are only about 1,000 pairs left in total, according to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The marabou argala belongs to the stork family. It is an imposing bird due to its size. On average, it is 1.5 meters tall and its wingspan is 2.5 meters. In the villages they prefer not to nest near houses, because they have scavenging habits, ugly appearance and foul-smelling droppings. In addition, false beliefs label them as bearers of bad omens. For all these reasons people destroy their nests.

marabou stork

Indian women want to save the species

A group of Indian women, led by zoologist Purnima Devi Barman, are trying to save the species from its inexorable extinction. They call themselves the “argala army”.

By giving dance performances, as well as selling their woven handicrafts and sharing their music, they raise funds to help save the species. At the same time, these women are trying to change the image that the villagers have of the marabou.

They estimate that 80% of the existing population lives in a large landfill surrounding the Deepor Beel wetland. The remaining birds are distributed among Cambodia and other Indian states.

A birth that nurtures hope

Specialists at the Assam Zoo celebrated in 2020 the birth of two cubs of the species. The event occurred for the first time in history.

To do this, they built bamboo nests on two platforms three meters high and with a diameter of one meter, imitating the particular way argala marabous make their nests in nature. The fertilized eggs were planted there and the two young hatched within ten days of each other. The fact fosters new hopes for other conservationists around the world to do the same.

This zoo in India and also a group of women from the same country, undertook to try to save the bird known to the locals as harguilla. Hope exists but much work remains to be done.

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