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Birds give Raiganj sanctuary a miss,ZSI to probe why

Alarmed over a sudden decline in number of migratory birds that visit the Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary,the state forest department has asked the Zoological Survey of India to carry out a study on its cause.

Written by Shiv Sahay Singh | Kolkata |
February 7, 2011 5:46:13 am

Alarmed over a sudden decline in number of migratory birds that visit the Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary,the state forest department has asked the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) to carry out a study on its cause. The study is expected to take around three years.

Every year,from July to December,about 1 lakh birds visit the sanctuary. But this year,the number recorded is between 45,000 to 50,000,said Apurba Sen,Divisional Forest Officer,Raiganj.

“Four species of birds ¿ open —billed storks,night herons,little egrets and little cormorants — are regular visitors to the sanctuary,” Sen said. The mating of these four species at a time is unique to the sanctuary,popularly known as Kulik bird sanctuary.

The forest officials say they are not sure about the reason for the reduction in the number of birds. Although globally,the weather conditions are changing due to global warming,there may be several reasons for the decline.

The changing crop pattern can be one,said Sen. “The birds visit the nearby paddy fields. But now,a new dwarf variety of paddy has been sown which does not help them camouflage. This may be a reason why the birds are staying away.”

The Zoological Survey will initiate the study with an emphasis on the habitat improvement of the birds. Along with the reason for the decline in numbers,it will also look into the practices the officials at the sanctuary can adopt.

Currently,the sanctuary focuses on maintaining the calcium level of water,patrolling,ensuring hygiene and water channelisation. The ZSI inputs are expected to help improve maintenance of the sanctuary.

“With such a dense bird population in a relatively small area,keeping the sanctuary clean and continuously removing faecal matter is a regular chore,” Sen said.

The sanctuary is an artificial forest spread over 1.3 square kilometres,which was created as a part of the Social Forestry Project of the West Bengal government. As large numbers of open billed storks and other migratory birds began to flock to the area during the mating season,it was officially designated as the Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary in 1985.

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