Spot-billed pelicans found dead in Muthannankulam in Coimbatore

Carcasses sent to the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History for a detailed examination

September 12, 2022 08:46 pm | Updated 08:46 pm IST - COIMBATORE

Two of the pelicans that were found dead in Muthannankulam in Coimbatore.

Two of the pelicans that were found dead in Muthannankulam in Coimbatore. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

At least four spot-billed pelicans ( Pelecanus philippensis) were found dead in Muthannankulam in Coimbatore city recently. 

Though the Forest Department suspects that the pelicans could have died of poisoning or due to contamination of water in the urban tank, the carcasses have been sent to the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) for a detailed examination to find out the cause of death.

District Forest Officer T.K. Ashok Kumar said that the Department was alerted of dead pelicans in the tank a few days ago. “Our staff collected the dead birds and sent them to SACON for a detailed analysis,” he said.

Samples collected from the carcasses will be subjected to tests at the National Avian Forensic Laboratory (NAFL), an advanced facility that was established by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in SACON in 2018.

S. Muralidharan, Senior Principal Scientist and Director in-charge of SACON, said that the carcasses were brought to the laboratory on the request of the Forest Department.

“Post-mortem examination of the carcasses have been conducted. Though some sort of poisoning is suspected, the actual cause of death would be known only after the lab results come, ” he said.

Muthannankulam is one of the tanks where the Coimbatore Corporation is carrying out Smart Cities Mission works and the waterbody is not free from contamination of water due to inflow of sewage, littering and dumping of waste. 

Listed as ‘Near Threatened’ to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, spot-billed pelican is one of three pelican species found in India and the only resident pelican in Tamil Nadu. The species was most recently assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2017 and its population trend is decreasing.

According to local birders, pelicans come to the majority of the tanks in Coimbatore for foraging while their nesting and breeding have been reported at Vellalore tank. Recently, an individual was spotted in Valankulam with a plastic bag stuck around its bill. 

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