Death of Sarus chicks raises questions about Dhanauri wetland

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Death of Sarus chicks raises questions about Dhanauri wetland

The birdwatchers were quite happy to see these healthy chicks

Death of Sarus chicks raises questions about Dhanauri wetland

A recent tragic turn of events has raised questions, the bird-watching community of Noida has been asking for a long time: the safety of birds and the health of Dhanauri wetland. 

The Dhanauri wetland, a birdwatcher's wonderland, popularly known for being a home and breeding ground of Sarus Cranes, UP’s State bird, is in dire need of protection. The recent, still unexplained, death of two Sarus Crane chicks has resurfaced this concern.

Saru Cranes and their dead offsprings 
Credit: Jaswinder Waraich

In the month of September 2021, a Sarus crane couple had given birth to two chicks. The birdwatchers were very happy to see these healthy chicks roaming around the wetland, in the footsteps of their parents. Then, on the morning of December 25, 2021, Jaswinder Waraich, a Noida-based birdwatcher, got a message from a local informing that one of the chicks was found dead on Dhanauri Wetland while the other chick was very ill and not moving. He rushed to the spot where forest department officials were already present. The chick was taken to the veterinary officer for treatment. However, the chick was also declared dead the next day.

Also read | GreNo: Dhanauri, slow death of a wetland

Col Shyam Sundar Sharma, 55, who has been an avid bird watcher from the time he was a kid, has been watching and following this Sarus crane family from the time the chicks were born. Says, he, “It is very disheartening to see these chicks perish. We have been watching them since the time they were born. From hanging around the nests to following their parents' footsteps. It was not only great to watch them from our lenses but also from our naked eyes. There are three Sarus crane couples living here. This was the only couple that had two healthy chicks. It is a shock to see them dead. We don’t know why they died. The forest department has sent the dead birds for a postmortem”.

Further, Shyam highlighted that one root cause of this kind of incident is that Dhanauri wetland is not protected by the Forest department as it is still not declared a 'wetland'. “This is despite the fact that this is wetland is one of the largest breeding areas of Sarus cranes in our zone,” says he.

The bird watcher community is of the opinion the locals near Dhanauri wetland don’t harm Sarus, as they are well integrated. Sarus also doesn’t mind them but then as they have started to bring more and more area under cultivation they are effectively encroaching on the wetland. The birders point that till three years back they used to spot 20-30 Sarus living near the water body. Now we hardly see 3 or 4 couples. It is getting harder to spot them now. The water body itself has shrunk a lot. 

A happy family of Sarus Cranes 
Credit: Col Shyam Sundar Sharma

The birders also pointed that another problem is a road coming up from the village side which is further encroaching on the wetland.

Jaswinder Waraish, 55, a Noida-based birdwatcher, who saw the dead chick in Dhanauri wetland, says, “The chicks were doing very well. Sarus cranes are territorial and seasonal breeders. The family requires a certain territory. The one territory which this family occupied is close to this wetland. So we saw them very often. Other families have other locations. On Saturday, one chick was found lying dead in the waterlogged area half-submerged in the water and the other was thrashing around. The forest department took the other chick in their vehicle for further treatment. The main thing is the entire process should have been done by trained people and secondly, it is a protected species. It comes under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife protection act. Schedule 1 has the highest level of protection.”

As said by one of the officials from the Forest department, the postmortem report on the two dead chicks is likely to come on December 28, 2021.