The fort of the Alexandrine
A centuries-old Mahogany tree, bearing ancient stories of the now abandoned Balihar Zamindar Kachari Bari of Bogura's Shahjahanpur upazila, remains a palace of sorts to the widely beloved Alexandrine parakeet, or Chandana tia in Bangla.
The bird, native to India, was named after the emperor Alexander the Great, who transported the birds from Punjab to Europe and the Mediterranean, where they were prized by royalty, nobility and warlords alike, said Professor Dr SM Iqbal, local bird expert and associate professor of the Zoology department in Govt MM Ali College in Tangail.
Since then, throughout the world, the birds were treated like royalty, making them a popular house pet as they found their place in paintings and literature, especially in aristocratic societies, he added.
Dr Iqbal further said the Alexandrine parakeet, scientifically known as Psittacula Eupatria, is comparatively larger sized, as opposed to other species of parakeets like the Rose-ringed or Red-breasted in Bangladesh.
While known widely for its history and grandeur, the species is rapidly declining in the sub-continent. In some parts of north Bengal in India and Sri Lanka, their declining numbers have caught the attention of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who had listed the Alexandrine Parakeet as a "near threatened species" four years ago.
Dr Iqbal said the birds were high in number and found in almost every region in the country during the 80s. However, due to continuous capturing, persecution and loss of habitat, their numbers began to decrease.
Since then, the birds had been sighted on rare occasions. In 2008, one pair was discovered in Lalmonirhat by a conservationist, said Dr Iqbal, adding that the High Court area in the capital has some trees that house a few of them.
After their decline, the birds were first found in Bogura in 2010 by Dr Iqbal. It was in the grand old Mahogany tree, in Demazani Bazar, where he saw a pair of Chandana tias residing peacefully with Shobuj tias (Rose-ringed parakeet). Within a week of finding them, he invited local stakeholders to an open meeting to preserve this now rare species of birds and thus formed the Chandana Tia Conservation Committee to raise awareness about the birds amongst the locals.
Starting with just two, the tree now houses around 10-12 Alexandrine parakeets, divided in two groups.
Generally, Alexandrine parakeets live in forests, woodlands, agricultural lands and tall trees in mangrove forests. They feed on a variety of wild and cultivated seeds, buds, fruits and nuts.
Dr Iqbal said, "These birds normally breed between November and April in their selective nest areas. They usually nest in tree hollows, but sometimes use tree holes excavated by themselves or cracks in buildings."
One of the largest parakeets, the Alexandrine parakeets, Dr Iqbal said, need big tree hollows to set up their nests. Therefore, they choose only big trees, usually aged, to live and breed in. He added that if they breed in a tree hollow once, they don't leave the place for as long as the tree survives.
Dr Iqbal hoped that their population would flourish if we can ensure the end of illegal wild-life trade and deforestation, adding that arranging adequate food for them throughout the year can help increase their numbers in the area.
Shahjahanpur Upazila Nirbahi Officer Fuara Khatun said, "Three months ago, the tree was declared a sanctuary for the Chandana tia," adding that they will take all kinds of measures in the future to not only preserve the species but also help it thrive.