Punjab’s Harike Pattan wetland on alert after bird deaths at Pong Dam in Himachal

The state forest and wildlife authorities are on alert at Harike Pattan wetland after scores of migratory birds were found dead under mysterious circumstances in Pong Dam sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh.

The cause behind the mortality of birds in the neighbouring hill state over the past few days is being investigated as the reports of samples sent for testing is awaited. Ferozepur divisional forest officer, wildlife, Nalin Yadav said on Monday that teams have been deputed to ensure extra vigil around Harike Pattan to spot any incident of bird casualty.

“Around 60,000 migratory birds are estimated to have already arrived at the wetland. Though no avian has been found dead in and around the water body so far, our teams are on alert in case of any suspicious incident,” he said.

The Harike wetland is located on the border of Ferozepur and Tarn Taran districts, where the Sutlej and Beas rivers merge.

Besides migratory birds, including gulls, terns ruff and reeve, Harike attracts resident migratory birds such as black-headed ibis and woolly-necked stork every winter.

Yadav said he is in touch with the wildlife authorities at Pong Dam for any development.

“The Himachal Pradesh authorities have sent samples to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute at Bareilly to ascertain the cause of the birds’ death. There is still no indicator behind the sudden avian mortality,” he said.

In November 2019, over 18,000 migratory birds perished due to avian botulism, a bacterial disease, at Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan.

According to experts, avian botulism does not transmit to humans but this fatal bacterial infection is fatal for birds. It spreads through carcasses of fish and other aquatic life.

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