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More winged guests at Pong this year: Census

The Pong Dam Lake received more winged guests this year as compared to last year, reveals the census conducted by Wildlife Department. The international wetland received 1, 28, 200 birds of 119 species this year, as compared to 1, 23, 000 birds last year. The census was conducted on January 29 and Principal Secretary, Forests, Tarun Shridhar declared the report. He said experts from various institutes and organisations, including the WWF, Delhi Bird Club, Himachal Bird Club, Birds of Himachal, along with several wildlife enthusiasts, bird watchers, volunteers and Forest Department officials participated in the mega exercise. The entire wildlife sanctuary was divided into 22 sections, he added.

Assistant Conservator, Wildlife, Dharamsala, DS Dadwal said the lake received 43,000 bar-headed geese this year. They migrate to India during the winter season from the cold deserts in Tibet.

The Pong Dam Lake receives the highest population of the bar-headed geese in the entire country. The state wildlife authorities and Bombay Natural History Society had tagged some of them at the lake to track their migratory routes.

DFO, Wildlife, Hamirpur, Subhash Prashar, who is the in charge of the Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary, said this year more birds had come to the lake. “This shows that the Wildlife Department has done a good job in securing a habitat for migratory birds,” he said. Over the years, the Pong Dam Lake has become an ideal haunt for migratory birds. Several birds have even made it their permanent habitat. But the encroachments along the lake pose a grave threat to the migratory guests. Locals grow crops near the lake, when the water recedes during the winter season, following which the birds feed on them. Sometimes farmers reportedly poison them to save their crops.

The wildlife authorities and the Fisheries Department have also remained at loggerheads over fishing at the lake. While the wildlife authorities maintain that fishing should not be allowed at the lake, the Fisheries Department auctions the fish wealth every year and gives licence to locals to do fishing at the lake.

The Tribune (03-02-2014)