NAGAPATTINAM : Cyclone Gaja’s footprint is still visible at Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary at Kodiyakarai, spread over 21 sq. km. The sanctuary lost flora and fauna during the cyclone, and could not recover most of them for months that followed until the NorthEast monsoon began.Freshwater inside the sanctuary, seawater pumped by salt producers and perching and shade provided by trees provide an ecological balance for migratory birds which come from Arctic oceanic region.
Around five sq. km (over 1200 acres) of trees had lost their crown in the impact of the cyclone. This includes a 250-acre herbal forest at Kodiyakadu, next to the ‘Raamar Paadham’ religious monument. Thousands of birds had visited the sanctuary during the cyclone at a significant time when it was the season. Hundreds of them died. The first quarter of this past year was supposed to have seen a lot of migratory birds. But, Vedaranyam was parched for two quarters.
There was no official attempt to replant trees as officials said most of the damage was to the crown which are ‘naturally and automatically recoverable over years’. The sanctuary is a protected forest where they usually let nature to take its course. But, they deployed a team of people last year to cut down and clear the fallen trunks and branches to create access, and bury the dead animals
Salt producers in surrounding villages such as Agasthiyampalli, Kodiyakadu and Kodiyakarai did not start production as they were struggling to remove the clay deposited by the cyclone till April.“Carnivorous water birds feed on ‘benthic fauna’, a type of marine organisms in standing water in marsh lands and salterns. Waterbird visits were less as there was lack of water until monsoon,” said S Balachandran, a resident ornithologist.
As per the bird census which was conducted in February 2019, surveyors counted only around 12,000 of them, which is almost three times lower when compared to previous years.Constant downpour since July has brought water back to Kodiyakarai inviting a few thousand birds, which had migrated previously, to return. “The de-crowned trees are starting to sprout to provide a perch for land birds. The accumulating water with benthic fauna will help water birds to return. Flora and fauna are making a comeback and will continue to do so in the months to come,” said S Kalanidhi, District Forest Officer of Nagapattinam.
Surveyors count 12k birds
As per the bird census which was conducted in February 2019, surveyors counted only around 12,000 of them, which was almost three times lower when compared to previous years.Constant downpour since July has brought water back to Kodiyakarai inviting a few thousand birds which had migrated elsewhere previously