GUWAHATI, Feb 11 � A census on water birds undertaken at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary after nearly two decades yielded the presence of 26 species with a total count of around 12,000.
The species included both migratory and residential ones. Whistling teal was the most widely visible species with some 7,000 numbers during the census, followed by common teal, white ibis, Baikal teal, grey-legged goose, bar-headed goose, etc.
The overall avian diversity in Pobitora � more acclaimed as a rhino-land with 84 animals which is the second highest number after Kaziranga � consists of 274 species � a significant tally given the sanctuary�s small area of 38.19 sq km.
Mukul Tamuly, range officer, Pobitora, told The Assam Tribune that the census � assisted by field biologists from NGOs such as Aaranyak � threw light on the trend of wetland birds visiting the sanctuary.
�We found around 12,000 water fowls belonging to 26 species. Whistling teal was the most dominant with a count of about 7,000, followed by common teal with around 2,000. The census confirmed an increasing trend compared to the situation three-four years back,� he said.
The census was conducted on the sanctuary�s beels (wetlands), i.e., Tamuliduba, Pagladuba, Lambaduba, Hahsora, Naltoli and Jogdol.
Tamuly attributed the increased footfall of avian species to the recent dredging of the beels. �We dredged the beels two years back, and this is has made the wetlands more suitable for the birds. This is evident from the fact that the number of birds visiting Pobitora increased in the past couple of years following a decreasing trend in the preceding years,� he said.
Tamuly said that no regular bird census is conducted in Pobitora, with the last census taking place in 1993-94.
Wetlands form a substantial part of the sanctuary, playing host to large congregations of winged species during the winter. While floodwater from the Brahmaputra inundates the sanctuary every year, replenishing the grassland as well as the beels, recent raising of the Chamota-Pobitora PWD Road without leaving sufficient outlet for floodwater to pass has posed a threat to the sanctuary.
This resulted in floodwater remaining stagnant inside the sanctuary for several months � a development described by conservationists as ominous for Pobitora. The thoughtless exercise has caused damage to the sanctuary�s grassland � critical to the survival of its famed rhino population.
�The raising of the road created severe problems for Pobitora. But now an RCC bridge is being constructed, and this should help the floodwater to drain out,� Tamuly said.
Forest officials apart, those involved in the census process included NGO activists and students.