Conservation of Spotbilled pelican at Kokkare Bellur Village


Project Pelican Conservation of Spotbilled pelican at Kokkare Bellur Village with people's participation.

Implementing organization: Mysore Amateur Naturalists (R.)

Principal Coordinator: Manu K

Location: Kokkare Bellur Village, Maddur Taluk, Mandya Dist. Karnataka.

Project Summary:

For over 500 years the village of Kokkare Bellur (henceforth KB) has been shared by birds and human beings living in Symbiosis. The tall trees of the village (Ficus religiosa, Ficus bengalensis, Tamarindus indica, Acacia nilotica, Thespecia populenea.) have provided a safe have for spotbilled pelicans to build their nests. In turn, the fish diet of the breeding birds has repaid the villagers with a potassium and phosphate rich source of manure for their crops, but now this age old pattern of harmony between the avian visitors and their human hosts has been rudely shattered and the very existence of the pelicans is in jeopardy.

The spot billed pelican (Pelicans philippensis) is a globally threatened species that has suffered a rapid decline in population during that past seventy years. The annual mid winter water-fowl census conducted by the Asian Wetland bureau has reported not more than 5000 birds in the whole of South Asia, in its 1993 report. Of the ten known nesting sites in India the pelicanry at Kolamuru village in AP and one at Kaziranga in Assam have now been virtually abandoned. No current information is available from Northern Sri Lanka where there used to be nesting sites in mangroves.

KB is situated 80 kms southwest of Bangalore. Nearly 30 years ago there were more than 2000 breeding birds here. The numbers have now dwindled to a mere 330 birds.

Need for conservation:

The main factors contributing to decline of pelican population in KB village.

1.Habitat Destruction:

A) Lack of nesting space

i).Increasing conversion of the land for arable crops, has also caused the loss of trees that provided vital breeding sites.

ii). The increase in human population and consequent pressure on he remaining trees for fuel and fodder: The trees in which the pelicans nest are all owned by different individuals in the village and not by the government depts. So no legislative protection can be provided. The fragmentation of land and property is at its heights making the last couple of trees the ultimate source of cash for the village poor. The main occupation in the village is farming, both crops and livestock along with sericulture. The animal population, chiefly goats consume about two tonnes of green leaves every day and the trees are indiscriminately lopped throughout the year.

iii). To cater to the ever increasing for modern brick houses, burnt bricks are manufactured here for local use. The baking of bricks consumes a lot of firewood, which invariably dwindles the existing trees.

B) Disturbance to habitat:

i). Increasing number of tourists and photographers: Pelicans are very sensitive to human proximity. When tourists and photographers stray too close to the trees with nests, parent pelicans fly away. Predators such as crows make use of this opportunity to attack the chicks and eggs. ii). Heavy transport vehicles plying on the main road that runs through the village, knock off the lower branches of trees with nests. Chicks often fall off the nest and on to the ground.

2. Threats at foraging sites:

A) Reduction of food:

i) Pollution of marshlands: The changeover from traditional organic agriculture to the chemical based green revolution methods. This adversely affected the fishing grounds where the breeding pelicans go to feed. The excess chemicals that get washed away into nearby water bodies cause an explosive growth of aquatic vegetation Many of the irrigation tanks are thus choked making it difficult for the pelicans to land in the water for fishing. In addition the pesticides often cause high mortality of the fish and higher pesticide loading in the pesticide fish. The pesticidal loading becomes critical and may be leading to thinning of egg shells. 4 major industries in the area constantly release toxic effluents into the streams and water bodies, affecting the fish by causing turbidity and biological oxygen deficiency.

ii) Siltation of tanks

B) Hunting: Hunting of pelicans for food has been reported at foraging grounds nearby.(Chennapattanam etc)


The conservation plan will have both a long term and a short term perspective. Priority will be given to the most urgent issues. The crucial factor is going to be the human component and reconciling the needs of the villagers and the needs of the birds. At present the local forest authorities offer token compesation to villagers whose trees are used by birds for nesting. The sum given doen not cover even half the value of crop loss eg. in case of tamarind. Even to get this meagre amount the villagers have to bribe the local forest watcher. To make matters worse, the authorities have tried to indimidate the villagers with threaths of legal action if they lop or cut down the trees, instead of using persuasion. Morever, every attempt at tree palnting by the forest Dept has met with total failure due to lack of local consultation and participation. A completely different approach is called which would involve the community in taking on the responsibility of caring for the pelicns. In the coming years, a management strategy in partnership with the villagers should evolve to ensure that KB remains a safe haven for the pelicans

Immediate measures (already underway):
The main purpose behind this, has been to involve the younger generation in the carrying of conservation activities.

1.Running of a Pen: for saving pelican chicks that have fallen off the nests i) An Enclosure was made with iron poles and mesh to protect young orphan chicks from stray dogs.

ii) A number of perches and a small pond was prepared inside the enclosure

iii) Fish is fed to the pelicans 3 times a day

iv) Quantity of fish consumed each day is recorded

v) growth of pelicans is recorded by measuring their weights, beak length, wing span and legs regularly

vi) Juvenile birds are induced to fly by carrying them on one's arm. vii) Hand feeding is gradually reduced and the birds are made to pick fish from the pond.

viii) All persons involved (including children) are educated about spot billed pelicans

ix) All birds are ringed with color bands before they are reintroduced into the wild.

Proposed Long Term measures:

i) to undertake commnuity tasks such as planting and watering trees.

ii) to raise a nursery of plant species favored both by birds and farmers and to promote the palnting of the above spalings to gradually supplement their fuel and fodder needs and also to provide good nesting trees to pelicans over the years.

iii) To initiate attemps to revitalize the local water harvesting structures as a source of immediate foraging grounds and to cultivate fish in these small ponds, to feed the birds in the pen.

iv) to take up environmental activities in local schools.

v) to publish a wall journal to kindle community interest in nature health hygiene and to suggest an environmentally friendly lifestyle. (already started)

vi) To run a clinic for the villagers. ( also underway)

This is a report on the current status and the urgent action that needs to be taken to save the pelicans of Kokkare Bellur. Manu and his team from the Mysore Amateur Naturalists have been working towards taking care of pelican chick for the past two years and they need all the help they can get. Suggestions about sources of financial support are welcome.

    C   ^     Yogesh Wadadekar
     \ ~/     Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics.   
     <><>     Ganeshkhind, Pune 411007, India Tel: 91 212 351414
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