**Puri:** The annual census of dolphins in Chilika Lake was held today by officials of Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and Forest department, but the result is yet to be published.
The annual monitoring of the highly productive eco-system of the lake was done by 29 teams from morning 6 to 12 noon consisting of Officials of CDA, Chilika WL Division, WWF, Government officials, Local stake holders and members of Civil society.
Irrawaddy dolphin is the flagship species inhabiting the Chilika Lake. Irrawaddy dolphins in India are protected under Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, ClTES (Appendix-l) and IUCN Red List Criteria.
Chilika Development Authority (CDA) has initiated many conservation measures for the protection and conservation of Irrawaddy dolphins in the past in close coordination with Wildlife Wing of State Forest Department. The annual population estimation survey of Irrawaddy dolphin of has been conducted by CDA since 2003.
Today the annual survey was conducted by “Transact Survey Method” followed worldwide for population of aquatic mammals. Each survey team was equipped with binoculars, GPS, Range finder and data recording sheets etc.
This year estimation is from 130-150 species. Exact figure will be released by PCCF(WL) after detailed analysis.
There is a reduction in number from the outer channel due to excessive tourist pressure and the Dolphins have colonised new areas in central and Southern sector. The movement has been facilitated by clearing of Gherries at places.
During the Flora and Fauna Monitoring of Chilika Lake today, five species of seagrasses were reported Seagrass species such as Holodule uninervis, Holodule pinifolia, Halophila ovalis, Halophila ovata and Halophila beccarii were recorded during the survey.
This occurs over an area of 152 sq.km, increase from 135 sq.km of last year. These Ecosystem Engineers have brought cheers against the declining trend throughout the world and now Chilika has 20 per cent of India’s sea grass.
A total of 10,21,563 individuals of 105 water bird species and 26,405 individuals of 76 wetland dependent species were counted from the entire lagoon on January 4, 2019. The survey today validated this data and a population of 1 million plus is estimated.
Sudden increase in the population of open water preferring diving ducks was noticed during the current season, particularly in the prawn gharries evicted areas clearly indicates the beneficial impact of eviction for migratory birds. The diving birds which need undisturbed extensive areas for feeding was made available through eviction carried out by the Chilika Development Authority. The numbers of waderer have increased across the lake compared to the census date.
Lesser Flamingo, Ferruginous Pochard and common Shelduck were encountered after a long gap.
Due to disturbance in habitat, the sponges were not observed in the lake after 1985. But after the recent eviction of large area of prawn gherry in southern sector of the lake, the sponges are observed abundantly in Patanasi and Kumarpur area of the lake.
This sponge might be observed in the above area as the area flourished with thick seagrass bed and undisturbed by fishermen. Two species of sponges were recorded.