Wetland birds vanishing

K. S. Sudhi

KOCHI: Wetland birds may vanish from Kerala in the near future considering their declining population trend. There has been an alarming drop in the population as revealed during the recent water bird census.

The number of wetland birds in the State has dropped to 94,516 in 2007 from 1, 41,588 of 2004, according to the Asian Water Bird Census data for Kerala.

The situation has further worsened in 2008 in kole wetlands where the bird population has come down to 30,618 against one lakh in 2004, said P.O. Nameer, Kerala coordinator of Asian Water Bird Census.

The wetland bird census was held in kole wetlands, Vembanad Lake, Purathur, Kattampally, Ashtamudi Lake and Kadalundi from 2004. These wetlands account for the 95 per cent of the total water birds counted from Kerala.

All the wetlands except Purathur and Ashtamudi showed rapid decline in the bird population.

In Purathur, the bird population increased to 29,837 from 11,272 of 2004. A marginal increase was also observed at Vembanad where the population was recorded as 26,801 against 24,744 of 2004, the survey revealed.

An alarming situation prevailed in Kattampally where the bird population plummeted to 8,440 in 2007 against the 20,087 of 2004.

Of the 31 bird species of Kerala that are considered threatened as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature standards, eight are wetland-dependent ones.

These include Spot-billed Pelican, Oriental Darter, Black-headed Ibis and Black-tailed Godwit, said Dr. Nameer. Dr. B. Sreekumar, coordinator of the survey in Vembanad Lake, observed that there had been significant reduction in the number of migratory birds that reach the region. Sandpipers, Greenshanks and Stints could be hardly spotted during the surveys, he said.

It was also observed that the Cormorant population was on the increase.

Besides the habitat loss, there should be other factors that resulted in the fall in number of migratory birds reaching the area, said Dr. Sreekumar who also heads the Kottayam Nature Society.

2009 census in January

The 2009 Asian Water fowl census will be held during the first three weeks of January.

The Census, to be held under the joint auspices of the Wetland International, Kerala State Biodiversity Board and the Kerala Forest Department, would commence at the kole wetland on January 4.

Purathur will be surveyed on January 11 and Vembanad on 18. Bird counting would also be held at 25 other wetlands across the State.

The survey aims to “obtain, on an annual basis, information on waterbird populations for most species, at wetlands in the region during the non-breeding period as a basis for long term evaluation of sites and monitoring of populations”, according to Wetland International.

During the survey, the status and condition of wetlands would be monitored. It also attempts to create “greater interest in water birds and wetlands amongst people, and thereby promote the conservation of wetlands and waterbirds in the region.”