Flying away: 44% fewer flamingos visited Mumbai’s wetlands this year | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Flying away: 44% fewer flamingos visited Mumbai’s wetlands this year

BNHS officials said most birds had gone to wetlands along the Gujarat coast due to presence of favourable ecosystem and presence of food.

mumbai Updated: Mar 01, 2018 01:06 IST
Badri Chatterjee
The birds generally visit the city from the end of October to early May.
The birds generally visit the city from the end of October to early May. (HT File)

There has been a significant decline in the number of flamingos and other migratory birds visiting wetlands in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) this season, said Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), which has been tracking the migratory birds across 27 sites.

A preliminary count found 20,000-25,000 birds this year compared to 40,000-45,000 in earlier years, which means a drop of 44%. The birds generally visit the city from the end of October to early May.

BNHS officials said most birds had gone to wetlands along the Gujarat coast due to presence of favourable ecosystem and presence of food.

“This year by and large the flamingo and wader population is very less in Mumbai according to our simultaneous count across wetlands sites in MMR till February,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS. “This is because there is a nesting area there, good rains have been recorded last monsoon, and abundant food is available along the Gujarat coast for them. Along with this, various developmental activities and wetland reclamation along Mumbai’s eastern waterfront are further squeezing their population to select locations. Unless we have a blueprint for development and conservation together along these areas, this problem cannot be solved.”

This is the first year where BNHS is carrying out simultaneous data collection from across the wetland sites through counting of different species.

“We will get the exact numbers by May when the season comes to an end and this will be an ongoing process to compare their numbers from now, every year,” said Apte.

“We should not forget that all biological systems or ecological hotspots reach a saturation point, and naturally, species move to other foraging areas. This is how animals have been using multiple areas for feeding,” said Apte, adding that the flamingo migrating season is not over and some can even arrive by March end as well. “By late April, we expect the number to go up to a maximum of 35,000.”

He added that if there is a similar decline observed next year as well, it will be a matter of concern. “We will have to do a post-mortem and identify the exact reasons why their numbers are reducing. There should be no reason why such numbers fall along Thane creek, Uran, Sewri, Airoli and other wetland sites,” said Apte.

Earlier this month, the state mangrove cell began boat rides through Thane creek to spot flamingos and other wetland birds. “Till January, we spotted fewer flamingos at Thane creek. However, there has been a marginal increase in February, which means the birds are still coming. Having said that, we will not refute what BNHS has found for other areas,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell that started the boat rides.

“Weather disturbances such as cyclone Ockhi that had hit the Mumbai and Gujarat coastline in December could have played a role in disturbing their migration.”

Meanwhile, naturalist writer and ornithologist Sunjoy Monga, who was at the salt marshes in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, said that he hardly spotted flamingos.

“For the past five to six years, the birds have been coming late to the western coast. However, a larger study is needed to understand whether their population has been scattered or any other reasons for their late landing. The 45,000 number however, seems to be an exaggeration as the population in Mumbai has never crossed 20,000 according to my observations,” said Monga.

“Of the 27 sites, flamingos and other wetland birds will only be found in maximum of two to three sites.”