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Threat to habitat

Siliguri, Jan. 22: Disappearing waterbodies and pollution are the main reasons behind the drop in avian numbers in north Bengal. Waterfowl in particular and even some raptors have borne the brunt, a census has revealed.

A few of the species can no longer be sighted in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts.

“In the course of the Asian Waterfowl Census, at least one raptor and three varieties of ducks which could be seen in numbers even a couple of years ago, could no longer be sighted,” said Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of the Siliguri-based Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation (Hnaf) today.

The AWC is conducted by Wetlands International, an NGO working around the globe on the conservation of birds. In north Bengal, its network partner is Hnaf.

“The population of birds like the ruddy shelduck and the cotton teal has substantially reduced,” he said. “Among the raptors that are water-based, the Pallas’s fish eagle could not be sighted and we suspect it has vanished from this part of the country now.”

The Indian Bird Conservation Network, another partner of the census, has identified 465 important bird areas or IBAs, of which 10 are in Bengal. Of these, three each are in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, two in tiger reserves while two are yet to be officially marked.

“Climatic changes, encroachment and pollution of waterbodies and poaching have led to the decline in the population,” Bose said.

The condition of the waterbodies is also being checked during the census. “We will send our findings to the IBCN which in turn will compile the national data and forward them to the Asia Pacific office of the Wetlands International at Horapark in The Netherlands. All reports would be collated there to get the global scenario,” Bose said.

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