On Friday morning, Gautam Singh, who lives close to the mangrove and creek in Sector 8 of Charkop, rushed to his window when he heard gunshots.
The Kandivli resident was initially surprised to see two armed men standing knee deep in the mangrove muck. Then he saw the three dead flamingoes.
“It was around 10.30am,” said Singh.
“I saw two men carrying rifles on their shoulders reaching for the dead flamingoes and dragging them through the muck.”
“The weapon was most probably a .12 bore,” he added.
Singh rushed to get his camera and took photographs of the men. He then informed the police control room, following which a case was registered against two unidentified persons under the Wildlife Protection Act.
“We are looking for them. The persons are mostly locals from the nearby fishing area,” said police inspector Pravin Patil, Charkop police station.
“We went to the spot, but could not venture into the area because there was s no access road. The spot was about 15km away in the marshy land.”
Called the star bird of the city, flamingoes are protected species that migrate to Mumbai from Kutch at the onset of winter and stay on till the first rains.
“This is the breeding time for flamingoes in the Rann of Kutch. But some of these birds remain in Mumbai and get scattered at various spots; one of them being the Manori creek under which Charkop falls,” said ornithologist Sanjay Monga.
According to Monga, the flamingoes may have been poached for their meat.
“The problem may be more acute in creeks and along such coastal habitats (estuaries, mangrove forests, inlets, etc) where patrolling is weak and there are less chances of birdwatchers hovering regularly,” said Monga, adding that it wasn’t impossible to catch the poachers.
At present, flamingoes and other water birds in Mumbai are facing various threats because of loss of wetlands, mudflats and mangrove forests due to poaching, encroachment, dumping of debris, developmental projects.
Pollution along the coast from sewerage, industries and oil spills further endangers them.