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Aqeel's Page on Indian Wildlife  

The threat to species continues. Warning bells are now ringing for the Spotbilled Pelican (Pelecanus phillipensis) - one of the largest birds of the Indian subcontinent - which is in danger of vanishing forever from the face of the earth.  Ghazala Shahabuddin is spearheading a fund-raising campaign to help sustain the conservation effort of a group of dedicated people who are battling to save one of the five remaining breeding colonies of this endangered bird, in a small village in the Indian state of Karnataka.

Concerned persons can contribute to this effort. Please get in touch with Ghazala, or members of the Mysore Amateur Naturalists (MAN), on how to channelise your support. Thank you.

Aqeel Farooqi



 A unique case of people’s effort to save the endangered Spotbilled Pelican 

At first glance, Kokkare Bellur seems an ordinary village, just like lakhs of others in India.  But it has a unique feature: it is one of only five nesting sites of the Spotbilled Pelican in India, a globally endangered bird species.  

Every year in November, several hundred pelicans come to Kokkare Bellur to nest in the village trees.  For hundreds of years, the pelicans have enjoyed a harmonious relationship with the people of Kokkare Bellur.  While village trees were left undisturbed for the nesting of pelicans, people used the abundant bird droppings as fertilizer in their agricultural fields.  Local fishermen allow these fish-eating birds to feed along with them in the tanks and lakes around Kokkare Bellur. 

The importance of the pelicans to the local culture is reflected in the plethora of beliefs and customs surrounding these fascinating birds.  Older villagers even refer to these birds affectionately as ‘the daughters of the village”.  

However, as in many other places in India, the age-old relationship between man and nature is slowly weakening.  Increase in population pressure coupled with increased demand on natural resources has resulted in a drastic decline in pelican populations.  More trees are being cut for timber, fuel and fodder, so that fewer pelicans can breed at the village every year.  More fledglings are dying as they fall from crowded trees, now too small to hold their nests.  Lakes and tanks around Kokkare Bellur are getting silted and polluted, making it difficult for pelicans to find sufficient fish.  

K. Manu, an engineer and bird-lover from Mysore, moved to Kokkare Bellur in 1994 to attempt to save the pelicans from extinction.  Realising that no wildlife conservation effort can succeed without the whole-hearted participation of local people, Manu worked actively to involve villagers and children in his attempts.  Over the years, his efforts have escalated into a full-scale social-environmental project, which aims to revive the pelican population along with the quality of life in the village.  Along with P. Guruprasad, M.N. Dinesh Kumar, C. Ravi, K. B. Sadananda and Dr. S. Madhusudan, K. Manu has sacrificed much to carry on conservation work in Kokkare Bellur and surrounding areas based on voluntary efforts and a shoestring budget.  They have formed an environmental group called Mysore Amateur Naturalists (MAN) that is based in Kokkare Bellur. 

The activities of  MAN include:

  • Formation of a local youth group (Hejjarle Balaga) to involve local children in environmental conservation efforts.  Currently the group has 40 dedicated volunteers who undertake tree planting, education and sport activities and maintain a local library

  • Organizing nature education programs for schoolchildren in the region to spread awareness about the environment

  • Protection of pelican nesting sites and raising of fallen fledglings to adulthood with the involvement of local youth and children. Every year 20-30 pelicans are raised in the village and released.

  • Organizing afforestation efforts through seed collection and household tree nurseries in the village

  • Holding regular health clinics for local people every Sunday for the last three-four years

  • Reviving the local school through assisting teaching and literacy efforts

  • Protection of water quality and fish populations in irrigation tanks and lakes that are important foraging areas for pelicans

Conservation of the large trees on which the pelicans breed would automatically lead to the conservation of a valuable resource that provides fodder and fuelwood on a sustainable basis.  Improvement of local water and fish resources is closely linked to the livelihood security of hundreds of small-scale local fishermen around Kokkare Bellur.  Above all, the conservation of  pelicans is intimately linked to the revival of local tradition and intrinsic conservation ethic. 

Please donate generously to MAN so that they can continue their invaluable work in Kokkare Bellur.  Donations will allow K. Manu to formally employ local youth in pelican conservation so as to stem the tide of out-migration, create income generation activities within the village and continue the work of MAN in health and environmental education.

Please send your personal contribution to:
K. Manu,
Mysore Amateur Naturalists,
571, 9th Cross, Anikethana Road,
Kuvempu Nagar, Mysore 570023
Phone: (0821) 541744, 542648

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A message from MAN:
If we pollute the environment, we may be able to use technology to clean it up. But no technology on earth can re-invent a species.  Every pelican we save takes us a little way away from the abyss.  The long march back is made up of single steps and you can help us advance at least one step at a time.  
Our work at Kokkare Bellur is funded entirely by voluntary donations.  For example, we have to purchase large quantities of fish during the breeding season to feed orphaned chicks.  Our clinic needs medicines and basic equipment. Our library needs expanding.  Research on water quality requires basic equipment and literature.  
As the younger generation who are actively involved in Project Pelican grow up, we believe that their awareness of eco-friendliness will become ingrained in their way of life, a natural part of their attitude to life.  To achieve this would be the crowning success of Project Pelican.”



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