In the news: Recently the annual bird count was conducted by the Chilika Wildlife Division on January 5, 2020.

Findings of the Annual Bird count Last year

  • The rare species Great Knot were sighted after five years in the Chilika lake.
  • The Nalabana island or Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside the lake, continued to be the most favoured destination for the birds. 

Great Knot: The great knot (Calidris tenuirostris) is a small wader. It is the largest of the calidrid species.Their breeding habitat is tundra in northeast Siberia.

  • They are strongly migratory wintering on coasts in southern Asia through to Australia. This species forms enormous flocks in winter. 
  • The great knot is distributed in far northeast Russia, coastal Australia, southeast Asia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and eastern Arabian Peninsula.
  • The Great Knot is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List 

About Chilika Lake 

  • Chilika Lake is the largest internal saltwater lake in Asia.
  • Migratory birds usually start arriving at Chilika in November as it is a comparatively hospitable alternate habitat compared to the extreme freezing conditions in their natural habitats in Siberia, China, Japan and other countries in the northern hemisphere. 
  • The birds often frequent open wetlands which have enough fish, prawns, frogs, snakes and molluscs.
  • It is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge.
  • It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian subcontinent.
  • Chilka Lake is designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
  • The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
  • It was put under Montreux Record (record for such sites where there has been or likely to be adverse ecological change due to manmade activities), but was later removed from it due to conservation efforts.
  • Rambha sector in the Chilika Lake is the ideal sector for dolphins to play, flock and mate because of the stillness of the water in the bay area.
  • Chilika, known for its exquisite natural beauty, attracts many tourists because of its dolphin population.
  • Last year, the Odisha High Court ordered the state government to initiate the demolition of illegal prawn gherries in Chilika in order to restore the ecology of the wetland. 
  • Gherries are areas encroached for illegal prawn cultivation inside the wetland area. 

Reason for the increased arrival of migratory birds:

  • Availability of open space, following the eviction of large tracts of illegal prawn cultivation inside the wetlands. 

                                   Conservation efforts in India for the migratory birds

The Government of India is providing financial and technical assistance to specialized institutions like Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) etc. for conducting various studies for monitoring populations of important bird species and their habitat.

The important steps taken for protecting migratory birds are given below:

  • Rare and endangered species of birds, including migratory birds, are included in Schedule-I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 thereby according to them the highest degree of protection.
  • Stringent punishments have been provided for in the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 for violation of the provisions of the Act.
  • Important habitats of birds, including migratory birds, have been notified as Protected Areas under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 for better conservation and protection of birds and their habitats.
  • Financial and technical assistance is provided to the State/UT Governments for protection and management of Protected Areas.
  • Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has been established for the control of illegal trade in wildlife and its parts and products.