Loktak Lake in Manipur

Ornithologists conducting a head count of migratory water birds at Manipur’s Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake in South Asia, expressed disappointment over spotting fewer winged guests this time.

The census, organized by the Bombay Natural History Society and supported by Manipur’s environment and climate change department and Loktak Development Authority, covered Loktak lake and Keibul Lampao National Park (KLNP) on January 20.

Keibul Lampao National Park (KLNP), the largest floating park in the world and home to the rare and endangered brow-antlered deer, locally known as Sangai, served as the focal point of the head count.

“We did the census exercise at 50 spots across Loktak lake and Keibul Lamjao and each spot was manned by four ornithologists using telephoto cameras and binoculars,” said RK Birjit Singh, state coordinator of Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN), on January 25.

Students and researchers also supported the head count, he added.

Although the final census report is pending, Singh anticipates the total bird count to be less than 12,000, with a significant drop in species by around 10.

This decline is disheartening compared to past figures, where over 20,000 birds from more than 20 species were spotted, and in some years, over 30,000 birds were witnessed.

However, Singh noted that all resident water fowl species, such as lesser whistling ducks, coot, pheasant tail jacana, were still observed.

The census included certain migratory bird species like coot, Ferruginous Pochard, Gadwall, but Baer’s Pochards from Mongolia, seen in previous years at Keibul Lamjao, were notably absent.

Singh attributed the dwindling figures of migratory water birds at Loktak lake to factors such as the construction of private fish farms along the lake shores disturbing shoreline birds, an increase in the number of fishermen, poaching, and the use of LED bulbs by fishermen at night.

Before the census, a 3-day workshop “Itinerary of the Waterbird Motivation Camp-2024” was conducted on January 17 at Mangolnganbi College at Bishnupur district.

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