The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to expand the Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary, adding 12,407 hectares of the Great Vedaranyam swamp in Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Thanjavur districts, is a right move toward restoring the ecologically sensitive wetland, which attracts hordes of migratory birds from the Arctic region and central Asia. So far, the revenue department held the vast tracts of swamp areas and very little could be done for the migratory birds. Point Calimere wetland complex is the only one in south India given Ramsar site status in 2002 because of the significant role it plays in attracting migratory birds from even Siberia, especially Greater Flamingos. Its expansion will enable the government to restore the ecologically sensitive region which is a site of mudflats, mangroves, backwaters, grasslands and tropical dry evergreen forest.
The sanctuary’s feature is the large variety of migratory waterbirds that visit every year for winter feeding. The most prominent is the Greater Flamingo which comes mostly from the Rann of Kutch. Some come from faraway places such as the Caspian Sea and Northern Russia. Other visiting waterbirds include species such as the Lesser Flamingo, Avocet, Spot-billed Pelican, Painted Stork, Spoonbill, White Ibis, Grey Heron and a variety of plovers, sandpipers, gulls and terns. A large number of migratory land birds also visit the sanctuary while migrating to places further south such as Sri Lanka.
Ornithologists say the site has registered the largest congregation of migratory birds, exceeding four lakh. As many as 236 species were spotted after the onset of the north-east monsoon. This is an encouraging sign. The Tamil Nadu government has shown good sense in managing the sanctuary so far. It will have to tread cautiously in maintaining the ecological balance so that it continues to attract a huge number of migratory birds. That is no mean task but it seems to know what it is doing.