Forest Department field staff and 20 volunteers took a bird count of Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary on Sunday in their continuing efforts to prepare a scientific database for better management of the sanctuary.
The fifth such exercise since 2018, the census commenced at 7 a.m. The volunteers were split into teams, each of which was responsible for two to three islets. There are 24 major and minor islets created by the Cauvery at Ranganathittu and the census of all was completed by 10 a.m.
Vegetation data had already been collected earlier. Hence, the focus was only on identification of the birds, said Deputy Conservator of Forests Prashanth Kumar.
The census exercise on Sunday saw around 65 species of birds being identified. Data tabulation was completed later in the day. The next round of the census — to be held after 4 months — will be taken up in the evening hours. The repeat census exercise is an attempt to identify and tabulate the number of species that come to roost at Ranganathittu during different seasons.
There are seasonal variations. Some birds are found only during summer while a few come to the islets during the annual winter migration from Central Asia. Multiple census every four months will help in a scientific cataloguing of the birds, their seasonal preferences, etc. Besides this, there are birds found here throughout the year, especially cormorants and painted storks.
Kumar said night herons, pond herons, and all types of egrets were found but pelicans were few in number. “We are making efforts to get Ranganathittu to be declared a wetland with the help of WWF-India. Once this is achieved, then it will be a fit case for applying for international wetland status under the Ramsar Convention of which India is a signatory.
The bird database along with vegetation analysis will also help authorities ascertain the kind of habitat different species prefer and will come in handy during any intervention and landscape management.
The formalities for getting a Ramsar recognition are lengthy in terms of process but the officials said they are working towards the same. The inter-governmental treaty adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 lays thrust on conservation and management of wetlands.
Officials said a wetland – to be accorded a Ramsar status – needs to fulfill any one of the nine criteria listed by the convention and Ranganathittu fulfills three. This includes supporting 1% of any endangered bird species. Ranganathittu has more than 3% of the world population of spot billed pelicans and painted storks. Mugger crocodiles, Mahseer fish, river otters all of which are tottering on the brink of extinction, are other species supported by the famed sanctuary.