New Delhi, Sept 13: Crossing national and international boundaries, millions of migratory birds descend on India to avoid the extreme winter chill in their native habitats. Many of them never return to their breeding grounds, say ornithologists. The reason: They are exposed, largely in non-protected wetlands, to illegal killing and trade.
Scientists, mainly from Mysuru’s Nature Conservation Foundation, during their fieldwork in 27 wetlands in Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram district, estimate that at least 1,700 waterbirds, mainly large and medium sized, are hunted every year in each wetland. They say hunting is widespread from December to April, the peak season of winter migrants. “This translates to hundreds of thousands of waterbirds being killed every year across India in non-protected wetlands. Such a high scale of hunting was unknown previously, and is not sustainable,” Ramesh Ramachandran, a Research Associate with the Cranes and Wetlands Programme of the Nature Conservation Foundation, told IANS. In Tamil Nadu alone, the winter migrants include the ruff - a medium-sized wading bird that breeds in marshes - common sandpiper, great cormorant, common teal, red-crested pochard and the common pochard. “All of these migratory species are falling prey to poaching,” he said. The hunted birds are largely sold to local food outlets.
As a signatory to the Ramsar Convention, the inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation of wetlands and their resources, India’s responsibilities include providing protection to all migratory waterfowls. Most of the migratory species use the Central Asian Flyway, and India is a signatory to the international agreement to conserve migratory birds of prey. The vast majority of wetlands in India occur outside protected areas and so the majority of waterbirds are not protected by strict protocols followed within the protected areas. (IANS)