MYSURU: Christmas may not come early this year, but pelicans have started arriving at the Kokkare Bellur Lake in Mandya a week ahead of schedule, much to the delight of birdwatchers, ornithologists and conservationists in the Old Mysore region.
The Kokkare Bellur Pelicanry rests on the banks of the River Shimsha, the foamy waters of which lap at its edges. A thickly wooded sanctuary, the pelicanry in Maddur taluk in Mandya district, has for long been a haunt of spot-billed pelicans.
The pelicanry in neighbouring Mandya district is part of Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN). In the past few days, residents of Kokkare Bellur have spotted nearly 100 pelicans in the village. The Kokkare Bellur Lake is one of the 21 breeding sites for migratory birds across the country. Every year, pelicans and several other species of birds sojourn at the lake for the winter. The pelicans, however, have created for themselves a special place in the hearts of the villagers, who eagerly anticipate their arrival year after year, and take a keen interest in their protection.
For birdwatchers, catching a glimpse of the pelicans’ unannounced descent from the lower reaches of the sky, followed by a looping swoop inches above the stillness of the lake’s waters, before soaring away into the distance having poached unsuspecting fish in their baggy throats is a spectacle of nature that they wait with bated breath. However, it is the involvement of the locals that has kept this annual rite of nature alive: At the request of the forest department, the villagers have agreed to neither prune the branches of the trees in Kokkare Bellur nor fell any of them to ensure that the winged wonders of nature return the following year. Moreover, the forest department compensates the villagers for any loss of crops they may sustain owing to the presence of birds in Kokkare Bellur.
The pelicans generally tend to leave India with the onset of the monsoon.
Head of the Kokkare Belluru Pelican Conservation Group B Linge Gowda confirmed that around a 100 pelicans had already nested at the lake. “Generally, the birds start arriving here around October 17 but they have started flocking to the lake a week in advance. I think that the whole village will be filled with pelicans and painted storks by January 2020,” Gowda told TOI.
Shadow of death looms large
However, in what has been a disturbing trend, nearly 100 pelicans have died at Kokkare Bellur Lake over the past three years, leaving both forest department officials and conservationists heartbroken. Although roundworms or nematodes found in the bellies of the pelicans are reported to be the cause of their death, experts and ornithologists from various laboratories in the state have collected water from the lake and are examining it thoroughly to ascertain the exact reason behind the death of the migratory birds.