Kollam: Waterbird census sets off alarm bells

Low count of wild ducks points to lack of aquatic vegetation.

KOLLAM: The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2019 that covered major wetlands of Kollam has reflected serious repercussions of vicious human interventions in nature.

Though the survey shows a slight increase in the overall number and the species of birds spotted, several species that are closely related to wetland ecology have almost vanished.

The census organised by WWF-India with the support of Social Forestry Wing of Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department in Polachira Ela, known as the waterbird hub of Kollam, the number has fallen as the wetland drained off for agriculture purposes.

It has affected the population of wild ducks like migratory Garganey Ducks, Spot-billed Ducks, and resident Lesser Whistling Ducks.

There were only two Pygmy Cotton Goose, which are resident, and absolutely no ducks were seen anywhere in the wetland. Oriental Darter, designated as endangered species by IUCN, was just one while in 2018 it was four and 2017 it was 55 subsequently.

“The drastic change in habitat from a waterlogged area into barren land could be attributed to the drastic fall in the number of swimmers. The Waders which feed in shallow waters were also very few. Presence of Woolly-necked Storks, Black-headed Ibis, and Painted Storks indicate the increase in temperature in the locality. Meanwhile, the increased number of Black Kites, which are common in cities, also indicates possible garbage dumps in and around the wetland,” said A.K. Sivakumar, AWC coordinator, WWF-India.

The census conducted in eight bird-rich sites elicited a total count of 6,649 birds belonging to 65 species against last year’s 5,697 from 61 species. The number of migratory birds also rose to 33 whereas it was just 22 last year.

The team which visited Karali Marshes got a count of only 371 birds which was very less than previous years. Looking at past years data, Karali Marsh was slowly recovering its Grey headed Swamphen population, but now it has fallen from 281 to 65.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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