Biodiverse Mumbai: Study finds 150 species of birds at Mahul-Sewri

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 06, 2015 23:16 IST

An ongoing study at the Mahul-Sewri mudflats to help the conservation of flamingos has found that the wetlands have around 150 species of birds.

The five-year long study by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), which started in 2014, has documented close to 40,000 flamingos and 5 lakh wading birds in the 10km-long and 3km-wide area.

BNHS and BirdLife International declared the site as an Important Bird Area (IBA) in 2004, considering that, apart from flamingos and other birds, the area has flora biodiversity, with 10 species of mangroves, 13 mangrove-associated species and 53 seed-bearing plant species.

Dr Deepak Apte, director, BNHS said, “The study is one of many efforts to save the Sewri bay from the advent of urbanisation. It is a rare thing for a metropolitan city like Mumbai to have pockets with huge population of avifauna (bird life) that can be witnessed by the common man.”

The mudflats and mangroves stretch along the Thane creek from Mahul the north-east Mumbai till Sewri. Some of the birds identified have been classified under the list of endangered species. The white-backed vulture and Indian vulture have been identified as ‘critically endangered’ and the Spotted Greenshank as ‘endangered’.

Under the five-year program for flamingo conservation at Sewri mudflats, BNHS has begun a satellite study to understand flamingo movement. Fifteen satellite tags would be attached to the birds, and using ‘satellite telemetry’, involves attaching a special piece of tracking equipment, called a Platform Terminal Transmitter (PTT), which will give details of altitude, location, micro-climatic conditions of the birds movement.

“As a part of the project, we are also studying how metals are getting accumulated in birds as a result of pollutants in flamingo -dominated areas,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS.

Apte added that other studies colour flagging, a technique where twin colours are given to each country by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), an international body to identify unique birds from different countries, have already been initiated.

Threats to the biodiversity of Mahul-Sewri mudflats:
* Encroachment by slums

* Pollution from industries (chemicals, oil, grease, pesticides)

* Poaching of birds

* Fuel wood collection from mangroves

* Electrocution of flamingos on high-tension wires

(Source: BNHS)

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