More than 400 migratory birds were found dead in Himachal Pradesh’s famous Pong Dam lake – an international wetland site – prompting the government to order a probe.
Most of these birds reach the lake every year from Central Asia, Siberia, Mongolia and Tibet.
State minister for forests and wildlife Rakesh Pathania confirmed on Wednesday that the wildlife teams which visited the lake two days back have reported killing of 413 birds, including bar-headed geese and common teal.
“The killing of hundreds of migratory birds is unfortunate and a matter of concern. I have sought full details on the incident. The wildlife department officials have been directed to ascertain the reasons for the death of the migratory birds at the earliest. The higher officials should go to the site and investigate,” said Pathania.
He said the officials of the wildlife department had received the reports from local villagers about a heap of bird carcasses in the nearby fields where farmers grow crops illegally in winter when the water in the lake dries up.
Earlier, in his report submitted to the government, deputy chief conservator (wildlife) Hamirpur, Rahul Rohane, said the field officials from Dhameta range had reported the sudden death of four bar-headed geese and one common teal in the Fatehpur area.
Preliminary findings of the birds’ post-mortem at Fatehpur ruled out poisoning. However, the the samples were sent to the veterinary laboratory at Shahpur for further testing.
“We are feeling bad about deaths of so many birds. Thus an in-depth probe will be done. More than 50,000 birds have already arrived,” said Archana Sharma, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Shimla.
“On December 29, 2020, the field staff of the Pong Dam Lake wildlife sanctuary was asked to search the entire area of the sanctuary. During this search, 421 migratory birds were found dead at Majhar, Bathari, Sihal, Jagnoli, Chatta, Dhameta and Kuthera areas of wildlife range Dhameta and Guglara area of Jawali beat of wildlife range Nagrota,” said Rohane.
The samples of dead bar headed geese were taken to the veterinary laboratory, Shahpur for testing. The viscera samples have been prepared at the laboratory and sent to Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RDDL) Jalandhar and Government Veterinary College in Palampur.
Following directions from Pathania, a team of veterinary doctors from Kangra will now visit Guglara to assess ground realities .There is a plan to send the samples to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly, and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
Some local NGO and environment groups have pointed a finger at poisoning of the birds.
Every year, thousands of exotic migratory birds of more than 400 species reach India’s largest manmade water body in the lower Kangra district. The birds usually start arriving in October and return in April.