The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2017 in Delhi region will start from January 7. This census will be carried out simultaneously in 27 countries from January 7 to 21. For Delhi region, it is planned from January 7 to 9 in wetland sites like Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Surajpur wetland, Najafgarh drain and jheel, stretches of the Yamuna river and Sanjay Lake, and will see participation of more than 15 volunteers.
Last year, the presence of 46 water bird species with a total population of 3,113 was confirmed at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary as part of the Asian Waterbird Census 2016.
With the threat of bird flu in the last few months of 2016, the findings of this census will show the impact, if any, of the H5N8 influenza virus on these birding hotspots. No deaths were reported from these wetland sites, except for Delhi zoo, which still remains under quarantine.
“We have spoken to the zoo director to be allowed to conduct the census there. The Delhi zoo is one of the wetlands in the region. However, due to bird flu deaths in November, the zoo remains shut and continues to be under quarantine. If it reopens by January 21, we will be able to include it in the census,” ecologist TK Roy, who is the Asian Waterbird Census Delhi state coordinator, Wetlands International South Asia, told HT.
Over 100 bird deaths due to H5N8 avian influenza have been reported in the Capital. However, over the past 45 days, no carcasses have been recovered. The Delhi government animal husbandry department has already written to the Centre asking for permission to reopen affected spots in the city, apart from the Delhi zoo.
This yearly census is done in January with the aim of conservation and management of wetlands and water birds.
“The count is carried out at important wetlands and it helps in identifying and protecting new sites of importance for water birds. The result of the census and information are also used to promote the national water bird, wetland conservation and international cooperation,” Roy said.