Nature Conservancy

Plight of  migratory birds 

By Saikat Kumar Basu 

The biogeographical region of South Asia (comprising of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives) and South East Asia (constituting Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia) is extremely rich in biodiversity. This unique region includes four megabiodiverse countries, namely- India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines that represents a significant proportion of global biodiversity. Furthermore, this region is bordered with China in the north and in close proximity of Papua and New Guinea in the southern region. It is important to mention that both China and Papua and New Guinea are megabiodiverse countries. Last but not the least, Iran on the western edge (although not a megabiodiverse country) also has some of the most unique habitats that also attracts intra and intercontinental migrating flocks of several bird species that visit these areas to avoid the harsh winters. 

 
Thus in real terms the richness of the biodiversity of this biogeographical region of the vast Asian continent is truly remarkable in nature unparalleled compared to any other continent on the planet. This unique biogeographical area includes a number of spectacular freshwater, marine and estuarine   aquatic as well premier terrestrial habitats that are dominated by both resident and migratory avifauna. The region has some of the most outstanding bird habitats that attracts migratory birds in massive numbers for foraging, nesting and breeding purposes in these habitats.  
 
A wide diversity of migratory bird species visit these wetlands and terrestrial habitats from the Eurasian region including the vast stretches of Siberia (Russia), Eastern Europe and Turkey, Northern China, Mongolia, Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan) and Africa on their annual migratory routes. But unfortunately due to poor maintenance and management as well as high levels of poaching, illegal captures, indiscriminate pollution and overwhelming increase in human populations has been collectively resulting in transformation of these rich habitats into death zones for the helpless birds. The deteriorating peace and tranquility of South and South East Asia drastically over the decades. 
 
Fewer and fewer migratory birds are coming to these habitats. The tourist foot falls has also been reducing due to lesser or irregular arrivals if the migratory bird species. Often the chemical and biological oxygen demands of these water bodies are so low that there are hardly any food resources like fishes, snails, slugs, aquatic insects available for the birds who build their nests in an around the water bodies. We ourselves are to blame for this. The noise pollution too is even so painful for human ears left aside the helpless birds. Bird researchers have serious doubts that how long these premier ecological sites will continue to serve as resting stations for several migratory species of birds. The poaching of migratory bird species has been exponentially rising over the decades. Furthermore, the capture of the birds in massive numbers for the illegal wildlife markets operating in the region is another significant anthropogenic factor contributing steadily towards decline in migratory bird populations and sub populations distributed across this vast region. 
 
The population pressure of South and South Asia is among one of the highest in the world. As a consequence expansion of agriculture and industries for economic stability has been devastating these unique ecosystems irreversibly impacting the migratory avifauna of the region significantly. The human predation on the migratory species both for sport (recreational) hunting and illegal harvest (poaching) has been so high that several species are found to alter or change their traditional migratory routes to avoid predation m, capture and death. The migratory bird species serve as an easy as well as cheap, easily available abs highly affordable protein source for several remote  rural communities  living in close proximity of these habitats. 
 
The insensitive nature of forest protection agencies, extreme poverty, unstable economic conditions; together with lack of environmental education and awareness among the public are further contributing to the destruction of the habitats. Furthermore, greedy and corrupt officials in close nexus with business communities are transforming unique aquatic habitats into the booming real estate industry has further deteriorated the habitats and contributing towards the destruction of the local ecosystem. Without comprehensive conservation policy adopted in these Bird Rich Areas (BRAs), we may be looking for their extinction in next five decades.

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