Poachers kill five migratory birds tagged with satellite transmitters

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Srinagar, Dec 18: Scientists’ attempts to monitor the migration pattern of birds suffered a major setback when five avian guests tagged with state-of-the-art satellite transmitters were shot down by poachers in Kashmir.

Every winter thousands of migratory birds from central Asia and southern Europe visit various water bodies in Kashmir. However, there has been no detailed study conducted on the migration pattern of birds visiting the valley.

In 2018, a study was initiated by Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) in collaboration with Scientific and Engineering Research Board to track the migration pattern of birds which visit the wetlands of Kashmir.

An official associated with the project said five birds were tagged with satellite transmitters or PTT (Platform Transmitter Terminal) in February 2018.

“Under the project, we acquired five Platform Transmitter Terminal (PIT) collars. They were fitted on birds including mallard, shoveler, grey legged geese, gadwall and common teal,” he said.

Once they were fitted, the PTTs got linked with the ARGOS satellite. “The tracking was successful for a period of time but poaching came as a setback,” he said.

The findings of the study reveal that the movement of mallards and grey legged geese was traced for three weeks. Similarly, the migratory movement of gadwall was traced from March to June 2018.

“The last signal was received from Manibugh Pampore wetland. It was presumed that they are shot dead and the equipment was destroyed by the poachers,” it says.

Principal investigator of the project Professor Khursheed Ahmad said poaching was a major challenge and suggested adequate number of PPTs installed on birds for their successful geo-tagging.

“We are putting in our best efforts but they will not serve any purpose if the birds are not protected from poachers. Consequently, with no scientific data on the birds, the conservation process will not be a success,” he said.

An official of Wildlife Department said that it is not possible to stop poaching in Kashmir. “We have our squads’ active in protected areas. However, birds usually fly away from wetlands to crop fields during the nighttime in search of food grains. This is when the poachers target them,” he added.

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