Census of waterfowls

THE ASIAN Waterfowl Census conducted by the Warblers and Waders, a city-based group of nature lovers at Akkulam, Punchakkari and Vellayani in Thiruvananthapuram and at Polachira, Kandachira, Ashtamudi and Karali marshes in Kollam, turned out to be one with mixed findings. This was the 18th consecutive census study conducted in the State by the group.

While the absence of the Spotbilled Pelican, a threatened species as per the Indian Red Data Book and the 61 per cent decline in the number of Oriental Darters in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam were among the significant findings, the presence of the White Ibis, locally known as the "Kashandikokku" and the Blacktailed Godwit, Osprey and the Openbill stork came as a welcome find for bird lovers. The team registered about 10,142 birds belonging to as many as 73species, sighted by the team.

The Garganey Teal, locally known "Vari Eranda", remained the species which was billed `abundant'. As many as 1,703 birds were sighted, followed by the Little Cormorant (1,344) and the Cotton Teal (688).

The threat to the wetlands in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam as a result of pollution, destruction of flora and fauna and filling up of agricultural lands, is being sighted as a major reason for the fall in the bird population. The Punchakkari wetlands which had been a host for the red data birds such as the Spotbilled Pelican and Oriental Darter has also been affected as a result of filling up of land, says Murukesh, a member of the study team.

Polachira near Kollam recorded the highest count of birds with the team sighting about 4,117 birds belonging to about 48 species while the Kandachira-Ashtamudi lake recorded the lowest with 515 birds. While the Karali marshes recorded as many as 3,415 birds belonging to 44 species, Punchakkari recorded 1,435 birds from 47 species and Akkulam recorded about 660 birds belonging to 83 species.

The census which is coordinated in India by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and carried out in Kerala by the activists of the Warblers and Waders, is being conducted for obtaining information about the water bird population in the wetlands, to monitor the status and conditions of wetlands on an annual basis and also to encourage interest in water bird and wetlands and thus help for their conservation.

The study team also found out that there was about 80 per cent decline in the population of the Oriental Darter, 72 per cent decline in the population of Openbill Stork and about 95 per cent decline in the population of Northern pintail. However, an increase of about 75 per cent was noted in the population of the Large Cormorant and about 28 per cent in the population of the Kentish Plover.

The group is planning to carry out awareness camps in these areas for highlighting the importance of conserving wetlands and birds.

By Hari Sundar G.