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Concern over death of migratory birds

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Bindu Shajan Perappadan

`Deaths occurred due to consumption of contaminated food '

NEW DELHI: Raising serious concern over the survival of winter visitors coming every year to the man-made Lakhota Lake in the centre of Jamnagar city in Gujarat, the death of over 500 migratory gulls, reportedly due to "poisoning'' in a month's time, has left environmentalists worried.

Birds including the slender billed gulls (Larus genei), brown headed gulls (Larus brunnicephalus) and the black headed gulls (Larus ridibundus) have been dying in the area, according to a report submitted by members of the Wildlife Rehabilitators Exchange Network (WREN), a joint initiative by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Delhi, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Members of WREN Gujarat, Jaydev Nansey and Avjit Deomirani, said the deaths occurred due to consumption of contaminated food fed to them by visitors to Lakhota lake.

Over the years the migratory birds have been accustomed to accepting food from people who congregate to watch the spectacular sight of birds. The birds have been coming here for decades and environmentalists believe that it is the customary local feed that is given to these gulls which is to be blamed.

The food given to these birds is made of pea flour, converted into pellets and noodles.

The source of mass poisoning was suspected to be the spurious oil used in the pea flour balls, locally known as "gaathia''. Gaathia has been widely used for feeding migratory birds in winters.

Prajna Paramita Panda, programme officer of the Wildlife Trust of India, says: "About 547 dead birds of the three species were recovered from the lake. After inspection, 80 per cent of them were found to be young and the remaining were adults. The dead birds that were sent to the toxicological laboratory based in Bhopal by the Forest Department to unearth if there were any avian flu related deaths have confirmed negative.''

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