News and Views

Wings of Kokkere, Bellur

A film on Painted storks- Migratory birds of India Review by Susan Sharma

Kokkre Bellur in Karnataka means 'Bird Village'. Come November every year, the branches of the old tamarind and peepal trees are teeming with feathered activity as flocks of Painted Storks (lbis leucocephalus) and Spot billed Pelicans (Pelecanus philippenis) descend on this hamlet to build their nests and rear their young.

The Simsha river and a few other ponds in the vicinity provide the endless supply of fish these waterfowl require during the breeding season.

As for the villagers, these Painted Storks and pelicans have come to be an integral part of their lives. Says one village elder, " These birds are like our bothers and sisters, we wait for them to come every year". The locals also believe that the non-arrival of these birds is an ill-omen. One of them earnestly told us, " A few years ago, these storks didn’t come and we had a murder in our village". More scientifically, these waterfowl, like most animals, can sense disturbances in nature and skip their breeding cycle in years of sparse rainfall. No wonder then, the farmers dread their non-arrival. And the guano that these birds so generously splatter over the tiled roofs and courtyards is valuable manure.

Over the years, though, the number of Spot-billed Pelicans and Painted Storks arriving in Kokkere Bellur has declined drastically. Naturalists attribute this to the dwindling number of trees and the resulting overcrowding of nests. Says Theodore Baskaran, naturalist and regular visitor to Kokkere Bellur "As a result of overcrowding many fledglings fall out of their nets and die". But local bird watching groups and NGOs (non-government organizations), along with assistance from the Forest Department have taken measures. "A nursery has been set up to hand rear these fledglings that have fallen out" explains Baskaran, "these are right under the trees so that the little ones can still watch their parents and learn from them-an association with the wild which is critical for any project of this kind". And along with this, conservationists have also taken to planting saplings and involving in the locals in their efforts.

The film 'The Wings of Kokkre Bellur' by K.P.Sasi is a tribute to all the unknown and uncelebrated communities that live in harmony with nature.

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