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Census records over 32,000 water birds in Loktak
Correspondent
 IMPHAL, Feb 23 – Lesser whistling duck outnumbered all other birds sighted during recent water birds census conducted across the Loktak lake, the largest fresh water body in the North East.

The Lesser whistling duck is followed by cattle egret, gadwall, common moorhen and common teal, according to the census 2014 of the Manipur Forest department.

Deputy Chief Conservator of Forest (Park & Sanctuary) L Joykumar said, “We are conducting the census regularly to educate the people about the need of conserving water birds and also to measure the health of our wetlands. The water birds are biological indicators of the health of a waterbody”, he explained.

Sighting of a minimum of around 20,000 or more water birds in a year also supports the status of a Ramsar site. But in the case of Loktak Lake, a Ramsar site, as many as 32,855 water birds belonging to 58 different species have been recorded during the recent census conducted by the Forest department and local NGOs in association with the Bombay Natural Historical Society at 50 different spots in and around the lake.

“Out of the 58 species, 24 are resident birds, 21 migratory and three are both resident and migratory”, said Joykumar. “Maximum count of birds was recorded at Ningthoukhong area in Bishnupur district”, he informed.

Though there is a slight decline in the water bird population this year in comparison with last year’s census, the overall trend is positive if compared with the figures of 2011 and 2012, he said.

The reason behind the decline could be the heavy biotic interference including hunting and poaching in the spots located at the eastern side of the Lake, he claimed.

New species such as comb duck, common shelduck, great crested grebe, greater painted snipe, grey leg goose, Kentish plover, northern lapwing and mandarin duck were sighted during the census, the Forest official said. But bar headed goose and pintail snipe drew a blank. Species like Mandarin duck was sighted after a long gap of seven decades. The bird was last recorded in 1939, he added.

If the number of water birds increases in the wetlands of Manipur, it will attract both local and foreign tourists, he observed.

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