It is an intrinsic nature of birds to dash off to the skies once out of the cage or enclosure. However, at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park a peculiar phenomenon is being witnessed over the past seven months. When the enclosure of the painted storks, grey herons and pelicans in the city zoo was severely devastated on the fateful day of October 12 after the very severe cyclone Hudhud wrought havoc, the zoo officials thought they had lost the birds that flew away from the broken mesh.
However, it was after a few weeks that they noticed the avian creatures perched up on a few tall trees and atop high mesh enclosures of other animals that survived the cyclone. Months later, good news has come in an unexpected way for the zoo officials. The birds have not only made nesting zones in some of the undisturbed open areas within the zoo, but were also successfully breeding this season. “There are around 40 such birds that flew away from the damaged aviary enclosure and have nested and recently bred in open spaces in the zoo. After the cyclone, we could capture only half the birds and have kept them in a separate enclosure. But interestingly, many of the free birds have now become resident species despite of being in the open,” says zoo curator G. Ramalingam.
Birders and environmentalists say that lack of undisturbed green zones, water bodies and availability of food are rendering the survival of many bird species difficult and many nesting zones are being abandoned by the birds. A case to be referred is the famous Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan that lost its biggest draw – the painted stork last December when over 1,500 birds abandoned the colony in the middle of their breeding season.
In the case of the Vizag zoo, the officials were quick to assess the situation after the enclosures were damaged leaving the birds to fend for themselves in the open.
“We regularly gave feed at the old enclosure area so that the birds identify it as a place of their own. This has helped us to protect the birds from completely abandoning the region,” says Mr. Ramalingam. Freedom has come with a price for the birds in the open though. In the recent gales, some of the eggs of the painted storks fell to the ground and perished.