The flutter of a gaggle of northern pintails breaks the misty morning silence at Mangalajodi, the northeastern fringe of Chilika Lake, Asia’s greatest brackish water lagoon in Odisha. Slicing by way of the nonetheless waters, a boatman rows a gaggle of photographers in the direction of the birds.
Purna Chandra Behera, a neighborhood fisherman and bird-watching information, focuses his binoculars on a purple heron. “Zoom the lens in the direction of your proper. It’s about to catch a snake,” he whispers to the photographers within the boat. In a fraction of second, digital camera shutters click on to seize the hen in flight with a catch in opposition to the crimson morning solar.
The photographers catch sight of the little stint, a tiny long-distant migrant that flies over hundreds of kilometres from the Arctic to trip at Mangalajodi this time of the 12 months.
Northern shovelers, ruffs, godwits, plovers, gadwalls and quite a lot of birds arrive in giant numbers from throughout continents to Mangalajodi through the winter months. This 12 months, migratory birds have are available in bigger numbers to the Chilika lagoon. In winter this 12 months, almost 11.31 lakh birds have been reported from Chilika within the newest census, which is 1.57 lakh greater than final 12 months. This included 10.93 migratory birds of over 100 species and native birds of greater than 70 species.
A protected ecosystem, improved habitat and considerable meals are mentioned to be among the elements which have made this place a haven for birds. Over 130 enumerators, together with hen specialists, forest officers and wildlife activists, have been concerned within the census.
Among the many most recorded species have been the gadwall and northern pintail, adopted by Eurasian wingeon. Northern shovelers, tufted geese and pink crested pochards have additionally are available in better numbers to the lagoon as in comparison with final 12 months. Bringing in additional cheer to the quaint village of Mangalajodi was the sighting of a pair of river lapwing, which was recorded after greater than a decade.
Drawing ornithologists and photographers from throughout the nation, Mangalajodi’s thriving ecosystem is an entire distinction to what was a number of years in the past. It’s exhausting to think about that the place was not at all times the hen paradise it now’s.
Again in 2000, solely a few thousand birds roosted right here. Locals weren’t conscious of their significance. They poisoned or shot them all the way down to promote the meat in native eateries and neighbouring cities. “We didn’t know the importance of the birds or the necessity to defend the ecosystem,” says Purna, who was jailed for 2 months for poaching of birds. Right this moment, the hardened poachers like him are have gone on to contribute to conservation and have develop an exemplary community-led ecotourism mannequin round Asia’s largest brackish water lake. Within the course of, a number of allied small companies have opened up, the talents of the individuals have been enhanced, and so they effortlessly mingle with a cosmopolitan guests who arrive in giant batches through the winter birding season.
Purna, a neighborhood, is likely one of the stakeholders within the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Belief (MET), which runs keep services, plies boats, and deploys guides through the birding season from October to March. Skilled by the Bombay Pure Historical past Society and the Chilika Growth Authority, many villagers equivalent to him have develop into skilled birders. Throughout low season, they’re concerned in fishing and cattle-rearing, assembly each month to remain one step forward of the poachers.
Learn how to get there
Mangalajodi is in Khordha district of Odisha, located on the northern finish of Chilika Lake.
It’s situated about 68 kilometres from Bhubaneshwar and 380 kilometres from Visakhapatnam.
There are home-stays and primary cottage stays run by native organisations. There’s additionally a government-run nature camp possibility.
Like MET, there are two extra organisations run by group of villagers, every having 15 boats and managing home-stays and cottages. With the tourism trade bouncing again after a niche of two years because of the pandemic, the individuals of Mangalajodi are as soon as once more busy catering to the regular stream of holiday makers. “We’re but to get again to the pre-pandemic ranges of enterprise. Final 12 months, there was a 50 % drop in tourism. Issues have began to search for from January this 12 months, and we’re hopeful of a restoration,” says Reena Sahu, member of Mangalajodi Ecotourism Belief. Reena manages a keep facility with 4 rooms and a dormitory. The vacationer bundle consists of keep, homely meals and boat rides within the morning and night. Like this, the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Belief helps almost 40 households of the village, a lot of whom run home-stays for vacationers the place individuals get a style of the native tradition.
Mangalajodi’s extraordinary community-led success story was recognised on a world platform, when the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Belief received the distinguished UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) Award for Innovation in Tourism Enterprise at Madrid, Spain in 2018.
Right this moment, all the village guards the Mangalajodi ecosystem fiercely and villagers like Purna are its vocal advocates. There’s additionally a 40-member monitoring staff from the three trusts, who’re related with the fishermen to maintain a strict watch over any incidences of poaching.