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February 2, 2010

Contaminated food threatens Gujarat's migratory birds

     Jamnagar (Gujarat): Migratory birds flocking to wetlands in Gujarat are at a serious risk of consuming contaminated food provided by locals. Since November last year, around 352 species of birds have flown in to the man-made Lakhota Lake in Jamnagar, which has become a death zone for them. The birds, which include slender-billed gulls, brown-headed gulls and the black-headed gulls, along with varieties of ducks like Gadwal, Gadgil, Ton and Spoonbill, are found in the lake. Hundreds of tourists come in daily to watch these exotic birds and feed them local food items like 'Gaathia' (pea flour balls) and biscuits. Over the years, the birds have become accustomed to accepting food from the people. Environmentalists, however, believe that it is the local feed that is proving harmful for the birds. "Local people are feeding the migratory birds 'gaathia' with a good intention but it is not the bird's natural source of food. These birds generally survive by consuming small fishes and other species found in the lakes. Gaathia has caustic soda in it and it is generally fried in contaminated oil. This was the reason why a lot of seagulls died here two years ago," said P H Satha, Officer, Conservator of Forests, Jamnagar. However, tourists continue feeding the birds with local food items. " We feed the birds food items like 'gaathia' and biscuits and take good care of them. The migratory birds have become our city's pride," said Manish, a local. In 2006, over 500 birds in the Lakhota Lake were reported dead due to poisoning after consumption of contaminated food items.
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