BNHS tags 6 flamingoes from Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, Nerul, with GPS-GSM to track their journey | Mumbai news

In a first-of-its-kind initiative to track the journey of flamingoes in and around Mumbai, the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has tagged six of these birds with solar powered Global Positioning System (GPS) – Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) radio tags.

The birds were tagged from their roosting site at Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS), TS Chanakaya, Nerul, between January and April.

The project is to be conducted for a period of 10 years and is a part of the impact assessment of Mumbai Trans Harbour Link bridge.

“This satellite-based telemetry studies was required to understand the migration and habitat utilisation pattern of flamingoes visiting the Thane Creek and also determine the means to conserve this species as they play a crucial role in the ecology. The information generated through this study is also critical to ascertain their status in the Central Asian Flyway (CAF),” said Bivash Pandav, director of BNHS.

Currently, the tagged flamingoes are seen moving within the TCFS and adjoining wetlands. This is the first time that BNHS has undertaken this activity in the Mumbai region. “This project was in the pipeline for three years, awaiting clearance from various departments. We also had to finalise the kind of technology to be used as it is mandatory that the tags cannot be more than 3% of the bird’s body weight,” said Mrugank Prabhu, scientist involved in tagging of the birds.

The Maharashtra Forest Department and the Ministry of Communication provided the permissions necessary to conduct this study. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) funded this study, and Mangrove Foundation is monitoring the project.

The birds were tagged with the help of professional bird catchers. Bird mesh and noose were used to capture the birds. BNHS has captured two varieties of flamingoes –Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo.

In the absence of a proper study on the breeding locations as well as the journey and stopovers taken during their migration, the exact origin of flamingoes is stated to be still a mystery.

“It is understood that the majority of the flamingo population are from Kutch but there have been around 25 Greater Flamingoes ringed in Iran and Kazakhstan sighted in India but there is no information on the breeding spots in Kutch,” added Prabhu.

There are six species of flamingoes known in the world, of which Greater and Lesser Flamingo are found in India. Even as the species that turn up in lakhs at the mudflats are of a sizeable population, the breeding and migratory pattern study remains sketchy.

Rahul Khot, deputy director and head of this study, said, “There are a few means by which we can study bird migration and migratory routes, first through observations, second by deploying birds rings and colour flags. While the traditional methods have several advantages, they have their limitations. Telemetry tags bypass these limitations as they can record a variety of parameters and provide access to this data in real time.”

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