The winged visitors from Siberia have arrived in Chilka Lake, Asia’s largest inland salt water lagoon, albeit two weeks late.
About 1000 migratory birds including Northern Pintails and Flamingos have arrived,” said Chilka divisional forest officer (DFO) Bimal Prasanna Acharya. “We have set up 20 camps in villages near the lake to protect the birds from poachers.”
Each camp will have a ranger or forester with forest guards and local youth to ensure safety to the migratory birds. A 24-hour control room has also been set up to monitor the situation, he added.
The lake hosts over 160 species of birds, including more than 90 species of migratory birdsin the peak migratory season. So far five species of the migratory birds have reached the lake, according to the Chilka wildlife department.
The department said that a total of 892,800 birds belonging to 168 species were counted last year. Out of that more than 500,000 were migratory birds.
The migratory birds fly over 12,000 km from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and Southeast Asia.
About 100 km south of Bhubaneswar, the 1000-sq km lake is the largest winter home for migratory birds in the Indian sub-continent. With its favourable brackish water and an ecosystem with large fishery resources and several threatened plant species, the lake offers the guests enough food which becomes scarce in their native land at this time of the year.
“The eco-system of Chilka is however highly fragile. Human intervention over the years has threatened its balance. It has to be protected at any cost,” said Orissa’s noted environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty.