CHENNAI: The state government has expanded Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, adding 12,407.27 hectares of the Great Vedaranyam swamp in Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Thanjavur districts.
The gazette notification of the environment and forests department last week is aimed at restoring the ecologically sensitive wetland, which attracts several thousand migratory birds from the Arctic region and central Asia.
A wildlife sanctuary was set up on 17.26 sqkm of swamp in Point Calimere in 1967 for the conservation of Blackbuck, an endangered and endemic species. "The addition will bring the entire area under the protection of the forest department. So far, the revenue wing held the vast tracts of swamp areas and very little could be done for the migratory birds. Now, habitat improvement will be the priority," said a senior government official. Geographically, the sanctuary is a site of mudflats, mangroves, backwaters, grasslands and tropical dry evergreen forest.
Given the need to protect and develop flora and fauna in the region, the state has brought the reserved forests of Muthupet, Thuraikadu, Vadakadu, Maravakadu, Thamarankottai, Palanjur in Pattukottai and Thiruthuraipoondi taluks and Kodiakadu of Vedaranyam taluk, under the new wildlife sanctuary.
"It is a bird paradise. Point Calimere wetland complex is the only one in south India given Ramsar site status in 2002 because of the significant role it plays in attracting thousands of migratory birds from even Siberia, especially Greater Flamingos," said KVRK Thirunaranan of Nature Trust.
Ornithologists say the site has registered the largest congregation of migratory birds, exceeding four lakh. As many as 236 species were spotted after the onset of the north-east monsoon. Species like painted stork, spoonbill, spoonbill sandpiper, spot-billed pelican, black-necked stork, spotted greenshank, white ibis and Asian dowitcher can be spotted here. "The manmade disturbances, including poaching and degradation of the site, resulted in a decline in number of flamingoes to 10,000 last season," said S Balachandran of Bombay Natural History Society.
A Kumaraguru, a consultant with Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, said the government should look into restoration of salt pans run by industries near the sanctuary. The government lease agreements with these units should not be renewed and the lands should be brought under the ambit of the sanctuary, he said. Large-scale conversion of mudflats into salt pans is a cause of concern.