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  • Waterfowl census warns of tough days for migratory birds

    The 17th Asian Waterfowl Census carried out by a group of bird-watchers in January and February this year has stressed the need for protecting 1,200 acres of wetland in Polachira, Kandachira and Karali in Kollam and the wetlands in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala which are home to a number of migratory birds.

    The census, which monitored the status of water birds, was conducted by the Thiruvananthapuram-based Warblers & Waders, the Bombay Natural History Society and Wetlands International, Malaysia. It recorded a total of 26,195 birds from 37 species in Polachira; the lowest count was 402 birds and 33 species in Akkulam.

    The northern pintail, popularly known as `soochivaalan eranda’, a migratory fowl from north Asia, and the cotton teal (`paccha eranda’) were observed in abundance.

    A total of 1,830 birds belonging to 45 species, and 954 birds belonging to 36 species were sighted at the Punchakkari and Karali wetlands respectively.

    As many as 60 oriental darters, which have been listed as red data birds (endangered), were sighted at Karali and 22 in Akkulam -- the highest recorded figures for 17 years. A total of 32,475 water birds belonging to 65 species were sighted during the course of this year’s census.

    Although several species were identified, the study claimed that various wetlands in the state continued to pose a threat to the birds. Pollution in the Akkulam lake and the destruction of flora and fauna, in the name of development, and the filling up of the Punchakkari and Vellayani agricultural lands, have prevented the arrival of a number of migratory birds.

    A large number of birds were sighted at Polachira as a result of the biodiversity and abundance of fish and mussels. But this biodiversity is under threat from atmospheric pollution caused by crusher units in the region. The sound of the units and the huge amount of dust were listed as reasons for the destruction of the wetlands.

    Though several rare birds such as the spot-billed pelican, the oriental darter, the grey heron, white ibis and open-billed stork have been sighted during surveys carried out in previous years, reclamation and poaching have been cited as the main reasons for the decline in the number of birds this year.

    Sand-mining and the presence of brick factories were also listed as reasons for the fewer number of birds in the Karali marshes.

    The study team urged the forest department to install boards emphasising the importance of migratory birds in Polachira, Vellayani, Akkulam and other areas. It also suggested the distribution of pamphlets among locals and tourists to create greater awareness about poaching.

    According to the study, Polachira should be turned into a waterfowl sanctuary. A research centre and library should be set up at Ithikara.

    Source: The Hindu

    May 3, 2003

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