Wednesday, November 30, 2011

400 flamingos die in Gujarat

AHMEDABAD: Greater Flamingos, (Phoenicopterus roseus) which fly thousands of miles from Siberia to breed in the warm marshes of the Khadir region in Kutch, are landing into a death trap. In the past 10 days, at least 400 of these graceful birds have been electrocuted by high tension cables near their breeding grounds.

D K Sharma, chief conservator of forests, admitted to at least 130 deaths, but locals and ornithologists have been recording much higher numbers. The flamingos have landed in record numbers this year, with one estimate putting their strength at five lakh, the highest ever.

Experts said the deaths were taking place at night, when the birds disturbed by passing vehicles would fly straight into the wires. The 220-400 kilowatt cables can kill a human being instantly.

Bharat Jethawa, census coordinator for Asian Water Birds, said, "It is difficult to estimate the number of deaths, but I saw dead flamingos at three or four places during a recent visit."

This is the second instance of mass electrocution of the birds in Gujarat this year. In June, a large number of flamingos were similarly killed in Bhavnagar. The dead birds became an easy meal for stray dogs in the area.

Experts said the problem had grown in recent years. In their recently published study titled 'Flamingo mortality due to collision with high tension electric wires in Gujarat', ornithologists Anika Tere and B M Parasharya mapped seven sites in Kutch, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar where high tension cables run close to flamingo sites.

Jugal Tiwari of the Centre for Desert and Ocean said birds of prey like harriers also contribute to the deaths by creating a flutter in flamingo colonies, leading to the birds flying into the cables.

"I have suggested that the cables should be insulated with rubber coating to protect the birds," Tiwari said.

The forest department has written to the state government's energy department, asking for the cables to be either insulated or put underground at places where they run close to flamingo breeding grounds. 

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