While the Ooty Lake is one of the wetlands most affected by anthropogenic factors in the Nilgiris, it also hosts the highest number of birds of any waterbody in the district, a recent wetland bird survey conducted by the Forest Department has shown. The survey was part of a State-wide bird census conducted by the Forest Department.
In the Nilgiris division, 14 different wetlands were surveyed, with the Ooty Lake far surpassing any other waterbody for avian biodiversity in the district. According to officials in the Forest Department, more than 600 birds were sighted during the survey at the lake. Of the total 35 species recorded during the survey, 27 were sighted at the Ooty Lake. Volunteers recorded the presence of resident and migratory species of birds at the lake, including spot-billed ducks, pond herons, cormorants and wood sandpipers.
Forest Department officials said that the bird survey revealed that Ooty Lake had a population of more than 600 birds during the survey period; the next-highest avian biodiversity hotspots in the Upper Nilgiris were at Kattery Dam, TR Bazaar and Emerald Dam. “Even in these areas, bird populations were less than 100 individuals,” they said.
Speaking to The Hindu, S. Gowtham, District Forest Officer (Nilgiris Division), stated that the avian biodiversity in hill wetlands was considerably lower than in wetlands in the plains and at lower altitudes. Mr. Gowtham said that the Forest Department will continue to keep track of avian visitors and species that are resident to the lakes and water bodies in the division during the winter months in the coming years.
‘Importance of wetlands highlighted’
Conservationists working in the Nilgiris said that the survey should serve to underline the importance of wetlands such as the Ooty Lake. N. Mohanraj, a Nilgiris-based conservationist, said that the lake was jointly managed by the Udhagamandalam Municipality, Public Works Department and the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation. Mr. Mohanraj, along with other conservationists has reached out to the district administration to form a committee, comprising the different departments in-charge of the lake, as well as the Forest Department and wildlife biologists to jointly manage development and cleaning projects at the lake.
“The Ooty Lake is seeing so much biodiversity due to the nutrient load being carried into it by the Kodappamund Channel. It should be declared a protected wetland, where the interests of maintaining biodiversity are balanced with the need for tourism,” said Mr. Mohanraj, who added that promoting the lake as a biodiversity hotspot will also have positive implications for tourism to the Nilgiris and for the Ooty lake. “In time, the water quality entering the lake needs to be also improved by upgrading effluent treatment facilities,” he added.