Ennore oil spill shows pelicans forage, use wetlands over a larger geography

Oil-drenched pelican was sighted in Tiruppur bird sanctuary located 400km from Ennore
The pelican covered in oil was sighted at the Nanjarayan tank bird sanctuary, 400 km from Ennore | Express
The pelican covered in oil was sighted at the Nanjarayan tank bird sanctuary, 400 km from Ennore | Express

CHENNAI: A week after an oil-drenched spot-billed pelican was sighted 400 km away at the Tiruppur Nanjarayan tank bird sanctuary, bird experts are calling for detailed studies to understand Chennai’s largest local migration of waterbirds and their relationship with wetlands.

Post Ennore oil spill, which caused misery to people and ecology, the affected birds, especially pelicans, were photographed widely in different wetlands in and around Chennai. Now these birds are being sighted several hundreds of kilometres away as well. This suggests pelicans forage and use wetlands across a wide geography over days and weeks. This has been somewhat confirmed post the oil spill, when oiled black pelicans are being seen in rotation in Ennore, Cooum, Adyar, Pallikaranai, Sholinganallur and Kovalam in different numbers on different days and even as far as Nanjarayan.

“I have been observing local migration of pelicans at Pallikaranai and Kallukuttai lake on a daily and weekly basis. Early morning, they fly in from the north in dozens of flocks and settle in Kallukuttai and Velachery lakes and surrounding wetlands, and in a few hours they fly south - possibly to Pallikaranai, Kovalam estuary and other wetlands. On different days their numbers vary - suggesting that pelicans forage and use wetlands across a larger geography. More observations and studies are needed to understand the movements of pelicans and large water birds and their relationship with wetlands,” said bird expert and author M Yuvan.

Udumalaipettai DFO Devendra Kumar Meena told TNIE the bird was first spotted by forest watchers last Friday and again sighted at the Nanjarayan bird sanctuary on Tuesday. Local Nature Society volunteers also visited and confirmed that it was an oil spill affected bird.

“The pelican is active and feeding well. Two eco-guides, four protection watchers are fielded along with a forester to monitor the bird and explore the possibility of capturing it to wash off the oil. We haven’t seen it for the last two days. Our staff are searching in nearby wetlands. We are also surprised how the bird travelled such a long distance with oil all over the body,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Ennore, the rescue team captured two pelicans and brought them to the Guindy National Park for necessary treatment on Thursday. E Prasanth, Chennai wildlife warden, said there was information that ‘black’ pelicans are spotted even in Kaliveli bird sanctuary in Villupuram district. “So far, we have captured eight pelicans, including two birds captured today. The rescued birds were given 4-5 soap washes, but still there is oil. It would take some time for the birds to fully recover. In a month’s time, we plan to release them. Health wise, they are in good shape and feeding well,” he said.

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