Conservation of Avifauna by the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust, Odisha
Mangalajodi, a village on the northern banks of Chilika Lake in the coastal and Deccan peninsular region of the East Indian state of Odisha, is a wetland with floating nesting sites that host a wide variety of exotic and migratory birds during winters. Popularly known as ‘The Bird’s Paradise’, it attracts birds from all across the globe such as grebes, cormorants, shags, herons, storks, ibises, geese and ducks, raptors, pheasants etc, making it one of the best bird watching spots in Chilika. Owing to this assemblage of avifauna, the wetland has bloomed into a prominent ecotourism destination with the help of the Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust (MET), a community owned and managed venture supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Foundation India and Indian Grameen Services (IGS). Furthermore, the wetlands provide critical regulating services including water-quality improvement, flood abatement and carbon sequestration along with providing a habitat to a myriad of flora and fauna.
Need for the Initiative
Until 2000, the people of Mangalajodi were hunting, eating and selling the meat of the water birds. They also resorted to poaching by poisoning, which killed birds of many species in large numbers. Hence, the bird census in the year 2000 indicated a mere 5,000 birds as compared to an earlier recorded population of 300,000 during the peak migratory season.
Conservation Initiatives and Impacts
Things began to change in 2010 when RBS extended support to IGS to put conservation initiatives in Mangalajodi on a sustainable footing. IGS mobilized community volunteers and formed the MET to conserve wetland biodiversity by inhibiting poaching activities, preserving the ecosystem and sustaining livelihoods by providing income-generating opportunities via ecotourism. The institution has community representatives as trustees and members consisting of boatmen, guides and auto-drivers. The members manage tourism and conservation activities. Decisions on financial and other matters are taken at monthly board meetings, attended by trustees and members, where regulations are discussed. Decisions are passed as resolutions and signed by the president and chairperson. Financial planning, audit and account presentations are recorded by the treasurer. monthly internal audits are shared with the members. MET members meet by the quarter, and trustees and members are elected during annual general meetings. MET conservation initiatives are spread over an area of about 10 sq.km. Widespread awareness programmes have been conducted emphasizing the significance of conserving biodiversity. Regular patrolling of the wetlands is carried out using natural waterways and traditional boats by a dedicated team, who work in consonance with the forest department and Chilika Development Authority, informing them about the sightings of poachers and trapped birds in fishing nets. Infrastructure for ecotourism has now been established comprising cottages, equipped with facilities to serve local cuisine. The members are trained regularly to hone their skills in eco-tourism, hospitality and native bird-spotting. Jobs have been created for community members to work as boatmen, guides, shopkeepers etc. Marketing campaigns have been carried out targeting birders and conservationists by developing a website and collaborating with travel agencies such as the Odisha Tourism Development Corporation. As a result of these initiatives, the inflow of tourists went up from 350 in 2010-11 to 1,535 in 2016-17. MET’s total revenue rose from USD 992.2 in 2010-11 to USD 23,001.5 in 2016-17. The poaching activities are now almost negligible and the bird population in the region rose from a meagre 5,000 in the year 2000, to 294,415 in the year 2017. The presence of ‘trigger’ species20 such as, baer’s pochard, spoon-billed sandpiper, lesser adjutant etc, prompted BirdLife International to categorize Mangalajodi as an Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA). Moreover, the increase in avifauna has resulted in increased deposits of guano in the water. This has led to a rise in aquatic diversity with fish species such as ilisha, flathead grey mullet, Asian sea bass, anchovy, rice fish and puffer fish. The endangered fishing cat has also been sighted in the area. Therefore, as a result of the conservation initiatives, from being referred to as a poaching paradise, Mangalajodi has transformed itself into a bird’s paradise and an eco-tourism hotspot.
Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards
The Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust received special mention in the India Biodiversity Awards under the category, ‘Community Stewardship’ in 2014.Contact -N.Sunil Kumar Tel. +91 9833021006, +91 9833021006 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org