CHENNAI:The avian count in Vedanthangal dwindled this season, following less rainfall among other reasons. From about 30,000 migratory birds from different parts of the world, the sanctuary received only about 2,000 this season, said to be one of the lowest since its inception.
Confirming the alarming dip in the number of birds this season, a forest official says, “Because of low rainfall this time, there has been a huge water shortage.”
Officials claim that while they are taking efforts to ensure that the four water channels in the sanctuary are filling up the tanks, it is not sufficient to cover the sprawling facility. “We are taking all steps to ensure that the water channels are filling the tanks spread along a 11 km stretch. But that, sadly, is not enough,” the official adds.
According to activists, real estate and industrial activities around Vedanthangal is a contributing factor to this dip. “Initially, Vedanthangal had 34 water channels, and birds arrived in large numbers. But many industries and buildings have came up of late, which has blocked the water flow. The arrival of birds depends mainly on the availability of food, water and safe shelter. When these elements are missing, there is no point expecting more birds,” says K V Sudhakar, president of Madras Naturalists’ Society.
However, not all are pessimistic about the state of affairs. Some ornithologists say while the number of birds has reduced substantially, new species of birds have lately been found nesting in the sanctuary. “I recently spotted a fulvous whistling duck nesting there, which is rare. It’s not like you cannot spot even a single bird, but yes it has hit the lowest this time,” says Allwin Jesudasan from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment.
The bird sanctuary was established in the late 1800s after villagers in the area petitioned the then Chengalpattu collector to recognise their right to safeguard the nesting colony. The document sanctioning this was renewed in 1858, and in 1936, it was recognised as a sanctuary and was allocated funds to maintain it.
The nesting months from November to March usually witnesses around 30,000 or more birds visiting, including many rare species. This year, the low bird count has also resulted in reduced number of tourists.