WRITTEN BY PRATHIKSHA DEVAGIRI
MANY ON a morning walk at Marine Drive have been seen feeding fried snacks to a swarm of seagulls — the migratory birds visiting the city from October till March. The trend has upset birders and environmentalists and led the state Mangrove Cell to deploy personnel asking people to desist from feeding the birds.
Environmentalists also believe that feeding of fried snacks, in the long run, will have an effect on the migratory pattern of these birds who flock to the beaches at Dadar and Mahim, Marine Drive and Gateway of India usually just before sunrise.
“Fired foods or snacks don’t contain any nutrition, which gives these birds energy to fly back. This might lead to a change in the migratory pattern,” said Adwait Jadhav, zoologist and rescue team member of Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW).
According to Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) — a nature conservancy group — artificial feeding is altering the migratory behaviour of these birds, which can further alter flyways. The digestive system of these birds is very small and the food can affect their stomach and liver and lead to health issues.
The BNHS had last year asked the state government to ban the feeding of migratory birds in Mumbai. Following this, the Mangrove Cell had put up notice boards at Marine Drive and Gateway of India to create awareness against feeding junk food to these birds.
It had also deployed guards at certain spots. “We have deployed guards at Marine Drive and Gateway of India to make sure people don’t feed junk food to these birds. For the first time, we just warn those who feed these birds fried food and take their contact details. If we see them doing the same thing again, we get a case filed against them under the Wildlife Act-1972,” said Seema Adgaonkar, Range Forest Officer of the Mangrove Cell.
Environmentalist have also highlighted changes in the behaviour of these birds. Sunish Subramaniam, founder of Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS), said: “In some countries, there have been reports of seagulls attacking humans, with the birds associating humans with those who feed them.”
“Seagulls gain their muscles by eating fish and other insects that are rich in protein. Fried food becomes an obstacle when they have to migrate back, as it does not give them proteins and creates indigestion,” said Pawan Sharma, president of RAWW, Mumbai.
Deepak Apte, director of BNHS, said: “We need to educate people because we cannot have guards everywhere… seagulls are all over and they are not used to junk food. It affects their body as is the case with us.”