The return of flamingos to the wetlands of Kelwe, a coastal village in Palghar, after a gap of two years, has brought a wave of excitement among villagers and birdwatchers.
Other than the flamingos, storks, openbills and white ibis have also been spotted flying over the area for the last two weeks.
“Flamingos could be spotted almost every day in the marshy patches of the coastal village. But we would be lucky to spot white ibis, cuckoo, and pied crested cuckoo,” said Vishu Suvarna, a birdwatcher from Kelwe.
Regional Forest Officer Dinesh Desale said around 70 migratory birds arrived two months ahead of schedule. He said, “Since flamingo is an endangered species, we are patrolling the area continuously. The bird is poached for its meat while some kill it for the thrills.”
Mr. Desale had arrested four people for shooting down three flamingos at Danda Creek in Kelwe in July 2014.
The poachers had used two 12-bore rifles to kill the birds, and were booked under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
“We have decided to rope in students to spread love and compassion for flamingos. For instance, students of ashram schools in Palghar are now engaged in birdwatching. Hopefully, they grow up to love birds,” said Mr. Desale.
Flamingos are mysterious in nature as their migratory pattern and life span is still relatively unknown. What is known is that the ones who come here from Gujarat, where they breed, but experts are not sure as to their travel routes, which may even include nearby countries.
“The oldest flamingo was spotted in Africa. He was seen last at the age of 64 years and in good health, so we can’t be certain of the life span of a wild flamingo,” said the Forest Department official. “The range of their migration is vast and uncertain. It needs to be studied to be able to understand the movement and characteristics of the species.”
The Bombay Natural History Society is considering radio-tagging a few flamingos to study their migration and breeding cycles.
The writer is a freelance journalist