With fishing temporarily stopped, migratory birds arrive in greater numbers to Maravakandy Dam in the Nilgiris

In January, conservationists had called for a halt to fishing in waterbodies inside reserve forests; following the restriction, the number of migratory birds arriving has increased, they say

March 29, 2024 01:26 pm | Updated 01:26 pm IST - UDHAGAMANDALAM

An osprey spotted in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve recently

An osprey spotted in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve recently | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With fishing becoming restricted in one of the waterbodies within the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) over the past few months, birdwatchers have noticed the arrival of migratory species from as far away as Eastern Europe and Siberia.

In January this year, conservationists had issued a call demanding a restriction on fishing in waterbodies in protected areas, particularly inside the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, as well as within reserve forests in the Nilgiris forest divisions. They pointed to the increased sightings of both endemic and migrant bird species as well as aquatic mammals like river otters in the waterbodies during the COVID-19 lockdown as evidence that restricting fishing would attract more wildlife to these areas.

Permitting fishing in eco-sensitive areas also poses a risk to rare and endangered wildlife, said N. Sadiq Ali, Founder of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT). Mr. Sadiq said that even if permits were regulated by the Fisheries Department, there was a chance that information about the movement of rare and endangered wildlife, such as tigers could be passed onto poachers. “Most of these waterbodies are located inside protected areas and reserve forests and so, no one should be allowed to fish other than Adivasi communities who depend on them,” said Mr. Sadiq.

Over the past few months, the T.N. Dorest Department has written to the Fisheries Department to stop fishing in areas such as the Maravakandy Dam in MTR, confirmed N. Jothilakshmanan, Assistant Director of Fisheries (Nilgiris district). Mr. Jothilakshmanan said that while fishing has been stopped, he had responded to the Forest Department and is working with them to allow for regulated fishing to once again start in the dam.

However, bird watchers have noticed that just a few weeks since artisanal fishing came to a halt, a number of migratory bird species have started visiting Maravakandy. M. Murali, a wildlife photography enthusiast said that he has documented the Greater spotted eagle, classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable, ospreys, black storks and a Booted warbler in Maravakandy Dam.

Conservationists said that in case permits have to be issued to ensure livelihoods, they should be valid only for a few months in a year when migratory birds are less likely to visit these waterbodies.

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