Conservation of Spotbilled pelican at Kokkare Bellur Village
Project Pelican Conservation of Spotbilled pelican at Kokkare Bellur Village with
Implementing organization: Mysore Amateur Naturalists (R.)
Principal Coordinator: Manu K
Location: Kokkare Bellur Village, Maddur Taluk, Mandya Dist. Karnataka.
For over 500 years the village of Kokkare Bellur (henceforth KB) has been
shared by birds and human beings living in Symbiosis. The tall trees of
the village (Ficus religiosa, Ficus bengalensis, Tamarindus indica,
Acacia nilotica, Thespecia populenea.) have provided a safe have for
spotbilled pelicans to build their nests. In turn, the fish diet of the
breeding birds has repaid the villagers with a potassium and phosphate
rich source of manure for their crops, but now this age old pattern of
harmony between the avian visitors and their human hosts has been rudely
shattered and the very existence of the pelicans is in jeopardy.
The spot billed pelican (Pelicans philippensis) is a globally threatened
species that has suffered a rapid decline in population during that past
seventy years. The annual mid winter water-fowl census conducted by the
Asian Wetland bureau has reported not more than 5000 birds in the whole
of South Asia, in its 1993 report. Of the ten known nesting sites in
India the pelicanry at Kolamuru village in AP and one at Kaziranga in
Assam have now been virtually abandoned. No current information is
available from Northern Sri Lanka where there used to be nesting sites in
KB is situated 80 kms southwest of Bangalore. Nearly 30 years ago there
were more than 2000 breeding birds here. The numbers have now dwindled
to a mere 330 birds.
Need for conservation:
The main factors contributing to decline of pelican population in KB
A) Lack of nesting space
i).Increasing conversion of the land for arable crops, has also caused the
loss of trees that provided vital breeding sites.
ii). The increase in human population and consequent pressure on he
remaining trees for fuel and fodder: The trees in which the pelicans nest
are all owned by different individuals in the village and not by the
government depts. So no legislative protection can be provided. The
fragmentation of land and property is at its heights making the last
couple of trees the ultimate source of cash for the village poor. The main
occupation in the village is farming, both crops and livestock along with
sericulture. The animal population, chiefly goats consume about two
tonnes of green leaves every day and the trees are indiscriminately lopped
throughout the year.
iii). To cater to the ever increasing for modern brick houses, burnt bricks
are manufactured here for local use. The baking of bricks consumes a lot
of firewood, which invariably dwindles the existing trees.
B) Disturbance to habitat:
i). Increasing number of tourists and photographers: Pelicans are very
sensitive to human proximity. When tourists and photographers stray too
close to the trees with nests, parent pelicans fly away. Predators such
as crows make use of this opportunity to attack the chicks and eggs.
ii). Heavy transport vehicles plying on the main road that runs through the
village, knock off the lower branches of trees with nests. Chicks often
fall off the nest and on to the ground.
2. Threats at foraging sites:
A) Reduction of food:
i) Pollution of marshlands: The changeover from traditional organic
agriculture to the chemical based green revolution methods. This adversely
affected the fishing grounds where the breeding pelicans go to feed. The
excess chemicals that get washed away into nearby water bodies cause an
explosive growth of aquatic vegetation Many of the irrigation tanks are
thus choked making it difficult for the pelicans to land in the water for
fishing. In addition the pesticides often cause high mortality of the fish
and higher pesticide loading in the pesticide fish. The pesticidal
loading becomes critical and may be leading to thinning of egg shells.
4 major industries in the area constantly release toxic effluents into
the streams and water bodies, affecting the fish by causing turbidity and
biological oxygen deficiency.
ii) Siltation of tanks
B) Hunting: Hunting of pelicans for food has been reported at foraging
grounds nearby.(Chennapattanam etc)
CONSERVATION ACTION PLAN:
The conservation plan will have both a long term and a short term
perspective. Priority will be given to the most urgent issues. The
crucial factor is going to be the human component and reconciling the
needs of the villagers and the needs of the birds. At present the local
forest authorities offer token compesation to villagers whose trees are
used by birds for nesting. The sum given doen not cover even half the
value of crop loss eg. in case of tamarind. Even to get this meagre
amount the villagers have to bribe the local forest watcher. To make
matters worse, the authorities have tried to indimidate the villagers
with threaths of legal action if they lop or cut down the trees, instead
of using persuasion. Morever, every attempt at tree palnting by the
forest Dept has met with total failure due to lack of local consultation
and participation. A completely different approach is called which would
involve the community in taking on the responsibility of caring for the
pelicns. In the coming years, a management strategy in partnership with
the villagers should evolve to ensure that KB remains a safe haven for
Immediate measures (already underway):
The main purpose behind this, has been to involve the younger generation
in the carrying of conservation activities.
1.Running of a Pen: for saving pelican chicks that have fallen off the nests
i) An Enclosure was made with iron poles and mesh to protect young orphan
chicks from stray dogs.
ii) A number of perches and a small pond was prepared inside the enclosure
iii) Fish is fed to the pelicans 3 times a day
iv) Quantity of fish consumed each day is recorded
v) growth of pelicans is recorded by measuring their weights, beak
length, wing span and legs regularly
vi) Juvenile birds are induced to fly by carrying them on one's arm.
vii) Hand feeding is gradually reduced and the birds are made to pick
fish from the pond.
viii) All persons involved (including children) are educated about spot
ix) All birds are ringed with color bands before they are reintroduced
into the wild.
Proposed Long Term measures:
i) to undertake commnuity tasks such as planting and watering trees.
ii) to raise a nursery of plant species favored both by birds and farmers
and to promote the palnting of the above spalings to gradually supplement
their fuel and fodder needs and also to provide good nesting trees to
pelicans over the years.
iii) To initiate attemps to revitalize the local water harvesting
structures as a source of immediate foraging grounds and to cultivate
fish in these small ponds, to feed the birds in the pen.
iv) to take up environmental activities in local schools.
v) to publish a wall journal to kindle community interest in nature
health hygiene and to suggest an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
vi) To run a clinic for the villagers. ( also underway)
This is a report on the current status and the urgent action that needs
to be taken to save the pelicans of Kokkare Bellur. Manu and his team
from the Mysore Amateur Naturalists have been working towards taking care
of pelican chick for the past two years and they need all the help they
can get. Suggestions about sources of financial support are welcome.
C ^ Yogesh Wadadekar
\ ~/ Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
<><> Ganeshkhind, Pune 411007, India Tel: 91 212 351414