Experts from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII-Deharadun), Zoological Survey of India (ZSI-Kolkata), and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have been roped in by the Andhra Pradesh State Forest Department to prevent mass mortality of spot-billed pelicans (Pelicanus philippensis) at Telineelapuram in Naupada swamp in Srikakulam district.
Telineelapuram is a designated Important Bird Area (IBA), where the migrant species have been succumbing to ‘Nematode infestation’ since December. The IBA is also home to painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala), which has not been infected with the Nematode infestation so far.
On an average, at least five spot-billed pelicans are dying every day. The total death toll has crossed 160, including six that died on Friday. Nearly 180 more adult spot-billed pelicans are surviving along with their chicks that are expected to be homebound by mid-Summer.
In-charge District Forest Officer (Srikakulam) S. Venkatesh told The Hindu on Friday that they had appealed to the experts from the WII, ZSI, and BNHS. They are likely to arrive at the scene within four days to launch the exercise to prevent the mass mortality and explore solutions for the infestation.
“Some samples, including specimens of the dead spot-billed pelicans, are being sent to the National Avian Forensic Laboratory (SACON-Coimbatore) for scientific study. At this stage of mass mortality of the winged guests from Siberia region, we are in desperate need of experts from the premier research institutes to save the habitat,” said Mr. Venkatesh.
Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF-Visakhapatnam) P. Ram Mohan said that a strategy was being prepared with various stakeholders to rescue the remaining spot-billed pelicans at the Telineelapuram IBA. PCCF and Head of Forest Force (Andhra Pradesh) N. Prateep Kumar said that he was closely monitoring the mass mortality.
The Forest department authorities did not document the gender of the dead spot-billed pelicans since December 26. The further care of the chicks is in question in the absence of the gender data of the dead birds. If an adult female bird dies, its chicks will lose the feeding source. The chicks are also unlikely to return to Siberia in the absence of their mother. In Telineelapuram IBA, the spot-billed pelican returns with its chicks only when the latter is able to fly on its own.