THE RESULT of the first comprehensive study on flamingos around Mumbai, conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), has revealed that 1,21,000 flamingos inhabited the city in January this year.
While there has been no flamingo census data available until now, birders and experts believe that the number of birds visiting the wetlands of Mumbai have increased over the years.
The study also found a decline in the number of Greater Flamingos and an increase in the number of Lesser Flamingos arriving in Mumbai wetlands from November. Greater Flamingos, which are taller and whiter, have a mixed feeding pattern. It feeds on insects, small fishes and algae. The Lesser Flamingos are comparatively smaller and more pink and only feed on algae.
The study is a part of the BNHS’ 10-year-long ecological study on flamingos and other waders at the eastern sea front of Mumbai (Sewri-Nhava seascape). The aim is to study the impact of development activities on these birds. The study includes research on feeding ecology, association of birds on the tiny organisms found in mud as well as impact of pollution on tiny organisms and waterbirds.
Census to help conserve city’s flora and fauna
Mumbai is one of the rare cities where the forest areas are within the city limits. At a time when rampant urbanisation and construction is putting pressure on the city’s flora and fauna, this census will plug a critical role in helping secure indigenous fauna as well as create conducive atmosphere for migratory birds. Inspite of these birds being such an integral part of Mumbai’s ecosystem, there has never been any data collected about the number of flamingos visiting the city and the impact of pollution and rapid construction around the wetlands on these migratory birds. The study will help do its bit in ensuring the conservation of these visitors and their habitat.
BNHS had began the 10-year study in May 2018. It had conducted monthly surveys, concluding the same in January. Under the census, both the banks of Thane creek were divided into transects of 1 km each. Each section was visited by multiple teams of researchers at the same time to avoid duplication and over three days to increase the reliability of counts. It was observed that the number of Lesser Flamingo is on the rise, while the Greater Flamingo numbers are on the decline since October 2018.
Dr Deepak Apte, Director of BNHS, said, “It is the first year of the study and it will be too soon to comment on the pattern or the decline in number. By next year, we will have a comparative data to draw a conclusion.”
“The pattern can be indicative of rising pollution level in the wetlands. As higher the flow of sewage in the wetlands, higher is the amount of food (algae) for Lesser Flamingos and lesser (small fishes and insects) for Greater Flamingos. This is not a scientific conclusion but only deductive reasoning,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator, Forest-Mangroves Cell.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority has begun construction of a 22-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link at Sewri end, which will connect Mumbai to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. One of the popular sites for bird watchers has been the Sewri seashore.
“We need to be responsible and sensible while planning the development of the region. We need to focus on the highly polluted eastern sea front that can provide toxic free habitat for these birds,” Apte said.