Studying India’s Marine Mammals — An Interview with Dipani Sutaria

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In a wide-ranging email interview with CI’s Shekar Dattatri, independent Indian ecologist, Dipani Sutaria, gives us a glimpse into her quest to study marine mammals. Based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Dipani is affiliated to James Cook University, Australia, from where she completed her PhD on Irrawaddy dolphins in Chilika Lagoon in eastern India. She is a member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group. Her current research activities cover human-animal interactions, marine and aquatic mammals, animal behavior, urban biodiversity assessments, and Read More

Irrawaddy Dolphin, Chilika Lake

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This rare photograph captures an Irrawaddy dolphin calf as it leaps out of the water. Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are quite shy, and all that can be seen of them most of the time is a dorsal fin or a tail fluke. They are believed to give birth to a single calf every two to three years, after a gestation of 14 months. A newborn is said to be 1 m long, weighing about 10 kg. As per … Read More

White-bellied Sea Eagle on a Fish Trap in Lake Chilika, Odisha

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Fish trapped in nets catch the attention of a White-bellied Sea Eagle in Lake Chilika, Odisha. Sea Eagles and other birds often perch near fish traps in the hopes of finding easy prey. Unfortunately, they risk entanglement in the nets themselves should they take the risk of diving into the traps. Lake Chilika is an extremely productive ecosystem, and fishing, though largely traditional, has become very intensive. So much so, that virtually no part of the lake is free from … Read More

Bird Ringing, Chilika

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We owe our knowledge of bird migration to years of painstaking work by scientists. Since 2001, ornithologists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have collaborated with the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and the Odisha Forest Department to study the birdlife of Chilika. Between 2001 and 2005, 6161 birds of 63 species were fitted with specially numbered rings. A large proportion of the ringed birds were recaptured during subsequent seasons, proving that birds return to the same areas every year … Read More

Films on Chilika Lake by Shekar Dattatri

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Asia’s largest brackish water lake and lagoon, Chilika, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), was considered a dying wetland until the late 1990s. But thanks to scientific restoration by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA), it is once again a vibrant refuge for wildlife and a reliable source of livelihood for local communities.

In 2013, wildlife and conservation filmmaker, Shekar Dattatri, produced two films on the lake for CDA: ‘Chilika – Jewel of Odisha’, a 21-minute documentary … Read More

Life between Net and Death in Chilika

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I was on a planned trip to Chilika’s Teen Muhana (Three River Mouths) with friends from Odisha, to watch migratory waterfowl of the great wetland. We started early in the morning from Mangalajodi on a hired boat. It was a lovely winter morning and the sun had gently warmed up the lake, where we witnessed large congregations of waterfowl.

Our first stop was at a very small island no.7 for 10 minutes. As we proceeded again towards Teen Muhana, … Read More

Chilika – A Shade Less Pink?

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In the winter of 2011-2012, I had the unique opportunity and privilege of being in Lake Chilika, Odisha, for a total of 40 days. While there were many resident and migrant birds to admire, Greater and Lesser flamingos, which used to be regular and abundant visitors to Nalabana Island inside Lake Chilika, were noticeably few. Population studies (done between 2001 and 2005 by scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society) show that around 5000 Greater Flamingos used to arrive until … Read More

Mangalajodi — A Village Of Bird Protectors In Orissa

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How do you convert a village of hardened poachers into committed conservationists? Read on to find out.

Mangalajodi village is situated on the banks of Chilika lake in Odisha (formerly Orissa). Chilika Lake is a brackish water lake, with lagoonal characteristics, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Orissa state on the east coast of India. It is Asia’s largest brackish water lake. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in the Indian subcontinent. The lake … Read More