Coming soon, a ‘Cafeteria’ for oil spill-hit birds at Ennore Creek

Published - December 21, 2023 08:56 pm IST - Chennai

Contamination due to a recent oil spill from industries in Manali has brought down the bird population drastically at the creek. 

Contamination due to a recent oil spill from industries in Manali has brought down the bird population drastically at the creek.  | Photo Credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B

While casting a net to trap birds is not something wildlife enthusiasts will ever recommend, in Ennore Creek, it has been recommended purely as an act of conservation.

Experts from the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary (BMAD) are planning to establish feeding stations for birds at the creek, where contamination due to an oil spill from industries in Manali has brought down the bird population drastically. To do so, they would first have to catch the birds.

The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Forests, the nodal agency for the oil spill clean-up, has roped in WTI to work with local volunteers and the Wildlife Warden, Chennai, to assess how the affected birds could be rescued and rehabilitated. While most of the birds, both healthy and oil-drenched, have flown away to other parts of the city like Pallikaranai and Cooum, the authorities have found that 10 pelicans and painted storks have been badly affected.

After a recce of Ennore, N.V.K. Ashraf, Chief Veterinary Officer and Vice-President at WTI, told The Hindu: “The very fact that some have flown away means that they can take care of themselves. But some birds will require intervention, and two or three of them are very weak. The challenge will be in capturing them.”

As birds are difficult to trap, the team is planning to strategically set up ‘cafeterias’ with nets to feed the birds with fresh fish and capture those that are sick, said Shravan Krishnan of BMAD. In places which motorised boats cannot reach, paddle boats from ‘Bay of Life’ – a surf school from Kovalam – will be used. The feeding stations will be set up for a week.

According to Mr. Ashraf, the larger impact is on the fish. “Some fish will die; others will survive. The ecosystem will come back. This is just a momentary toxicity,” he says.

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