Fifty-eight species and 24,000 individuals recorded in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam in the annual waterbird census

Published : February 08, 2021 16:40 IST

Ducks and other waterbirds in the sanctuary. Photo: Aaranyak

Members of the census team counting and recording the birds in the sanctuary. Photo: Aaranyak

In the annual waterbird census conducted at Pobitora Wildlife sanctuary in central Assam’s Morigaon district, 58 species with more than 24,000 individuals have been observed. Assam Forest Department and Aaranyak, a non-governmental organisation engaged in biodiversity conservation, carried out the census on February 7. In 2020 census, 64 waterbird species with more than 15,000 individuals were recorded.

“Most of the waterbirds counted were winter migrants here. Pobitora has large wetlands that are relatively free of human activity which, coupled with both the availability of water for foraging and land areas for resting makes it ideal for waterbirds. This year, we got Greater white-fronted goose and Painted stork, both a rarity for Pobitora and Assam. Large flocks of Lesser whistling teal, Greylag geese, Northern pintail, Ferrugineous pochard and Common teal were observed. Smaller flocks of Bar-headed geese, Eurasian wigeon, Ruddy shelduck were also observed”, says Udayan Borthakur, wildlife biologist at Aaranyak who coordinated the census and briefed the participants on field procedures.

Located about 35 kilometres off Guwahati, the wildlife sanctuary is home to the highest concentration of one-horned rhino population. It has a total 102 rhinos, according to the 2018 census. Of the total 38 sq km of the wildlife sanctuary, the rhino population is concentrated in about 16 sq km.

The main objective of the census was to count the waterbird species in order to generate data on birds and monitoring the birds for long-term conservation.

“Anuual fluctuations in waterbird numbers are common and depend on several factors, including water and food availability, both at the summer breeding ground and winter breeding ground (Pobitora in this case), temperature, and so on,” explains Borthakur.

About 30 participants, including staff of the Forest Department, Aaranyak members and staff, students and faculty members and other volunteers of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Guwahati, took part in the census.

Mukul Tamuli, Range Officer of Pobitora, coordinated various aspects of the census procedure. Apart from Borthakur, Dr Bibhuti Lahkar, senior scientist of Aaranyak, Dr Namita Brahma, Faculty member of TISS, Naba Choudhury of Bonoriya, Binod Deka and Nripen Nath of Maibong Eco Resort led the six teams that conducted the census.