Originally created 06/05/99

Bird sanctuary threatened by population pressure



NEW DELHI, India -- One of India's most famous bird sanctuaries is being threatened by encroaching villages and hordes of tourists, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The study by the U.N. Population Fund said 15,000 people live in 10 villages on the edge of the Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur, the winter home of the endangered Siberian crane.

The villagers feed off its water, grazing areas, trees and other resources, endangering its biodiversity. The park attracts 100,000 visitors a year, further straining its resources.

In 1982, seven people were killed in riots when the government declared the area a national park and outlawed grazing and collecting firewood.

The 11-square-mile park is on a bird migratory route, making it a temporary home to 375 species.

The report predicted that some fragile species would soon disappear, and the Siberian Crane would be the first to become extinct.

The winter population of the Siberian Crane has dropped from 200 in 1965 to just four in 1996.