Van­ish­ing Eden

An en­tire colony of painted storks de­serted Ke­o­ladeo mid-sea­son this year. Is the wet­land dy­ing?

Down to Earth - - MIGRATORY BIRDS - VIJDAN SALEEM |

Samiss when vet­eran OME­THING WAS bird watcher Abrar Khan en­tered the Ke­o­ladeo Na­tional Park in midJan­uary. It was un­usu­ally quiet for this part of the year. “Ear­lier, when birds would chirp, noth­ing else could be heard,” he re­calls. A re­tired range of­fi­cer of the Bharatpur wildlife depart­ment,Khan knows the park in­ti­mately.He re­mem­bers the days when thou­sands of painted storks and other birds would visit the park in Bharatpur dis­trict of Ra­jasthan. Although their num­bers have dwin­dled over the years, nearly a thou­sand pi­ainted storks did visit Bharatpur this sea­son, but they were nowhere to be spot­ted.

Khan was acom­pa­ny­ing ecol­o­gist T K Roy, who works with the South Asia chap­ter of Wet­lands In­ter­na­tional. Roy was con­duct­ing a sur­vey as part of the Asian Wa­ter Bird Cen­sus (awc).To his sur­prise,he found only two painted storks in the park, a World Her­itage Site.

The painted stork is a lo­cal mi­gra­tory species that usu­ally flocks from south­ern In­dia to Bharatpur in Oc­to­ber ev­ery year. The birds leave af­ter April for south In­dia, where they stay for some time.They re­turn in

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