Despite scores of birds dying due to avian influenza in Himachal Pradesh, the forest department announced that the habitat of migratory and resident water birds has gradually improved in the state.
Thousands of migratory birds from all over the world visit the wetlands in the state located at Pong Dam in Kangra district.
The annual water bird count at Pong Dam lake wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first week of February, 2021. The state wildlife wing had deployed 57 staff members across 26 sections of the sanctuary for the counting exercise.
The forest department released its report just hours before Kangra deputy commissioner, Rakesh Prajapati lifted the ban of human movement in the 10 km periphery of Pong Dam lake.
“The results of the annual water bird count conducted last week show that the habitat of migratory and resident water birds has gradually improved despite the threat of avian influenza, which left 5,004 birds dead,“ said Archana Sharma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF).
As many as 1,08,578 birds of 96 species were counted this year. Of them 1,01,431 birds are classified as water dependent migratory birds and 6,433 are classified as water dependent resident birds.
Meanwhile, the total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese at the Pong Dam lake was recorded at 40,570.
“Although the total population of water birds declined due to the avian influenza outbreak, there has been a gradual increase in the total population of birds as a result of continuing containment measures being taken at the Pong Dam Lake,” said Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife (North), Dharamshala Upasana Patial.
However, it’s important to note that the total population of birds as well as the number of species counted this year is marginally less when compared to last year’s figures.
In 2020, a total of 1,04,032 migratory waterfowls of 60 species, 1,03,77 resident water birds of 30 species and 1,292 birds of 24 other local species were counted.
Meanwhile, the other species for which a higher population count was reported this year are-- Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138).
During the counting exercise one Bar-Headed Geese and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.
Meanwhile, minister for forests and wildlife Rakesh Pathania announced that bird flu has been contained in the state.