Migratory birds bid premature adieu to Kashmir



SRINAGAR: Hundreds of migratory birds are bidding an early adieu to Kashmir this year because of unusually hot temperatures and scant rain and snowfall. Indiscriminate shooting down of birds reported from many wetlands in Kashmir including Hoker Sar and Wullar, according to many conservation experts has added to their premature departure from Kashmir. 

“Normally, the migration back to summer homes from the Valley by the migratory bird species starts by the middle of March, but due to unusual rise in temperatures and scant precipitation during the winter months, these avian visitors are leaving earlier this year”, said Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, wildlife warden (Wetlands Kashmir).

He said many species of migratory birds including Pintails, Mallards, Pochards, Wigeons and Shovellers have already left the Valley for their summer homes in Russian Siberia, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, China, central Asia and other places.

The wildlife warden said last year 567,000 migratory birds including Greylag Geese, Mallards, Teals, Pochards, Wigeons, Shovellers, Gadwalls and Pintails came to spend the winter months in the bird sanctuaries and other water bodies of the Valley to ward off the extreme cold of their summer homes.

“This year, we fear the number of avian visitors would be much less,” he said.

Srinagar city recorded a maximum of 20.4 degrees Celsius on February 24.

Sonam Lotus, director of the local MET office, said this had happened after 76 years.

According to the locals, the indiscriminate hunting down of many exotic kinds of bird species is threatening the wetland ecosystem and the premature departure of the birds from Kashmir may be a wake-up call. “Poachers are violating wildlife rules in broad-day light as they operate without any fear from the Wild Life Department or Police,” Ghulam Nabi, an education department employee said. “Not only in Wullar Lake, are birds being killed in large numbers in Hokersar and its adjoining wetlands.”

Though there are multiple factors responsible for lesser number of birds visiting the Valley this year, indiscriminate shooting of birds could just be prompting them to leave.

“One of the reasons is the climate change, but shrinking areas of our bird reserves, pollution of water bodies because of discharge of effluents contribute heavily to affect the health of our water bodies”, Lone said. 

Lone admitted that poaching of birds continued routinely in unprotected areas but denied such a practice happened in the protected zones. “We are taking all steps to check poaching outside the bird reserves and we have seized many weapons and lodged cases against poachers.”

An employee from the Wild Life Department said that slaughter of birds is going on without any check. “I’m telling you all this as a conscientious citizen,” he said begging not to be named. “The hunters have been given a free hand to kill the birds. On an average, they kill 800 to 900 birds a day,” he said. 

He said the clandestine activity is being carried out with the open connivance of the Wildlife officials and police. “Failure of the department to stop this activity is not the only thing that should worry us but there are people inside the department facilitate encroachment of wetlands across Kashmir,” he added.

As water bodies shrank in the Valley this year, most of the migratory bird sanctuaries hosted fewer numbers of Geese this winter.

The Wullar Lake hosted comparatively better numbers of Geese this season, but nowhere like the flocks that have been seen in the past.

In unprotected water bodies like the Wullar Lake and many others, poachers are reportedly shooting the migratory birds as the local wildlife department is understaffed.

“The Wildlife Warden Wetlands Division was transferred almost a month back on compliant basis that he connived with the poachers and land mafia and now the charge has been handed over to another official,” the Wildlife official said. “Even this has proven futile as the killing of birds is continuing at an alarming pace.”

“The water bodies not directly protected by the wildlife department fall under the control of other government agencies,” Lone said.“It is the duty of these agencies to protect the migratory birds as they are an important aspect of the eco-system of water bodies”, he asserted.


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