Hundreds of migratory birds found dead in Himachal's Pong Dam wetlands: What went wrong?
Over 2400 birds of different species have been found dead at Pong Lake over the past week, maximum of them being the bar-headed geese, the world's highest-flying birds that migrate from far-off Siberia and Mongolia.
Hundreds of winter migratory birds have been found dead in Himachal Pradesh's Pong Dam Lake sanctuary. No specific cause has been identified for the unfortunate incident.
The Forest officer of Nagrota-Surian said in a letter dated December 31, 2020 that 141 winter migratory birds were found dead in Pong Dam wetlands in the Nagrota-Surian wildlife range.
A total of 105 migratory birds were found dead in the Nagrota-Surian area of the range and 29 migratory birds were found dead in the Jawali Beat area of the range and 7 Bar Headed Goose birds were found dead in the Bhatoli Phakorian area. This totals up to 141 migratory birds.
What was the cause of the death of the migratory birds?
According to the Chief Conservator Wildlife of Pong wetlands Upasna Patyal, the remains of the birds have been sent to different laboratories across the country to determine the cause of death.
Avian Influenza Flu a cause?
•The primary results of five samples of Bar Headed Goose sent for testing at the ICAR-National Institute of High Security Animal Disease (NIHSAD) showed the presence of H5N1 avian influenza virus. This shows that the virus could be a cause of large-scale fatalities.
•Over 2400 birds of different species have been found dead at Pong Lake over the past week, maximum of them being the bar-headed geese, the world's highest-flying birds that migrate from far-off Siberia and Mongolia.
•Besides the bar-headed geese, the other species that were found dead include the river tern, black-headed gull, pochard, common teal and the shoveler.
•The local administration has banned all human activities within a 10-km radius of the Pong wetlands in the Kangra district, as the bird flu can spread to human beings and turn fatal.
•Kangra deputy commissioner Rakesh Kumar Prajapati had chaired a meeting with wildlife authorities to take stock of the situation and it was decided to shut off the Pong Lake area for activities like grazing, fishing, and tourism.
•The local administration has also banned the sale of poultry products and fish in Fatehpur, Dehra, Jawali and Indora subdivisions as a precautionary measure. All activities in the 1-km area of the lake have been banned and the next 9-km area has been declared a surveillance zone.
•The Deputy Commissioner also informed that samples are being collected from poultry farms in the area and people have been told to stop grazing and farming activities in peripheral areas.
Pong Dam wetlands
The Pong Dam Wetland is listed as an International Ramsar site, as it hosts over 1 lakh migratory birds of almost 100 different species that fly thousands of kilometres from Siberia, Mongolia and the trans-Himalayan region to Central Asia in winter every year.
The Pong Dam Lake was constructed on the Beas river in 1960 was declared as a bird sanctuary in 1983. The sanctuary was later given the status of the wetland of national importance in 1994 and was listed as a Ramsar site in 2002.
The Rajasthan government had sounded a similar alert last week after confirmation of avian influenza in crows that died in Jhalawar district. Madhya Pradesh's Indore city had also reported death of crows and mass mortality of poultry birds was reported at one of the largest poultry belt at Barwala near Panchkula in Haryana.
As per the Bird Count India, there have been reports of wild birds dying in separate incidents across India in the past 7-10 days. The recent fatalities in the Pong Dam wetlands may lead the wildlife authorities to suspend the annual avian count conducted in Pong wetland if the situation is not brought under control. The count is generally conducted between January and February.
Last year, almost 1.15 lakh birds of 114 different species were spotted on the wetland, most of which were the bar-headed geese. Other prominent species found in the areas during this time of the year include the Eurasian coot, common pochard, northern shoveler, common teal, northern pintail, Eurasian pigeon, ruddy shelduck and the great cormorant.
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