Waterbirds decreasing in coastal belt

Sadiqur Rahman | Updated at 02:09am on March 17, 2018

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Waterbirds are struggling to survive amidst habitat loss and food shortage in country’s costal belt. The photo was taken recently in Bhola. — New Age photo

Appearance of waterbirds fell sharply in the country’s coastal belt over the last year, according the latest coastal bird census done in January.
Bird surveyors told New Age that there had been a drastic decline in waterbirds’ appearance since January 2017.
They said that they found the worrisome picture during waterbird census carried out at Bhola and Noakhali, the country’s central coastal areas in January.
During the census in January this year, a lone Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a critically endangered species, was seen at Char Ganguria, Noakhali.
The waterbird census is jointly carried out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature-Bangladesh, Bangladesh Bird Club, Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project, Prokriti o Jibon Foundation and the Department of Forest.
During the latest census, surveyors counted 26,525 individual waterbirds of 57 species down from 41,045 in January 2017.
At least six of the waterbird species were, at different times, declared as globally and locally threatened species.
The Spoon-billed Sandpiper remains a critically endangered species, the Great Knot -- an endangered species and Black-headed Ibis, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper and River Tern continue to be nearly threatened species.
IUCN-Bangladesh chapter’s wildlife biologist ABM Sarowar Alam described the rare appearance of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper as quite alarming.
In January 2017, he said, 15 to 20 Spoon-billed Sandpipers were seen across the country’s coastal belt.
The number of the other waterbird species also declined sharply, he said.
According the latest census report, only three River Terns were spotted at Domarchar, Bhola besides 40 Great Knots that were seen at Bhola and Noakhali.
According to the report, at Domarchar 3,567 waterbirds were seen, the highest for any place across the coastal belt.
Char Mamtaz had the lowest number with 41 waterbirds of different species.
Baghmara, Char Kalokaiccha, Char Kukri Mukri and Shipchar in Bhola, once known as the heavens for a wide variety of waterbirds, now seldom see these beautiful creatures.
Habitat loss is the primary cause for the sharp decline in waterbird population, said Sarowar.
He called for further research to find out whether or not climate change induced temperatures had a bearing on the declining waterbird population.
‘Disturbance in food-chain due to climate change might also encourage the birds to migrate to elsewhere,’ he thinks.
Dhaka University teacher and president of Bangladesh Bird Club Obaidul Haque called it a matter of concern that coastal belt’s powerful people grab newly formed shoals, that often remain submerged, to turn them into grazing ground for their cattle, especially buffalos.
Obaid demanded holding thorough research to find out the impact of coastal afforestation for the faster reclamation of submerged shoals on waterbirds as small fish, mud insects and hydro planktons, waterbirds’ favourite food, thrive only in the muds of submerged shoals.
Sk Ahiul Islam, a recently retired coastal division officer of Bangladesh Forest Research Institute, admitted that transforming muddy shoals to pasture disturbs waterbirds’ quiet habitats.
Increased salinity hampers waterbirds’ food-chains forcing them to migrate.
DoF’s Wildlife and Nature Conservation Circle conservator Jahidul Kabir said, ‘More
research should be done to find out the actual cause of decline in waterbird population.’