Gujarat: 56 migratory cranes dead as hailstorm pounds Kutch village

Videograb of a field in Baniari village where the birds were found dead.

A HAILSTORM struck a flock of migratory demoiselle cranes, killing 56 of them and injuring 17 others, while they were foraging in a field in Bhachau taluka of Kutch district on Thursday, forest officers said.

Officers of Kutch (east) forest division said the incident was reported from Baniari village in Bhachau taluka of Kutch district. “The flock was apparently foraging in an agricultural field on the border of Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary when it was hit by a hailstorm on Thursday evening. The area was pounded by hail of very large sizes, killing 56 demoiselle cranes and injuring 17 others,” PA Vihol, deputy conservator of forests of Kutch (east) forest division, told The Indian Express on Friday.

Vihol said the field was almost bare after the harvest of jowar crop and that the birds were hardly 250 metres away from the border of the sanctuary. “We have shifted the 17 injured birds to our nursery in Bhachau town for treatment,” said Vihol.

Kutch was hit by sporadic thundershowers and hailstorms on Wednesday and Thursday. Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary is a major roosting place of migratory common cranes and demoiselle cranes as well as a home to greater and lesser flamingos. Lakhs of common cranes migrate from central Asia in the winter to Kutch. Vihol said that around one lakh common cranes had already been roosting at Chhari Dhand, a community reserve located inside the Banni Grassland in western Kutch.

However, the DCF said that there were no reports of birds of wild animals having been adversely affected by the unseasonal rains and hailstorms.

“After the Baniari incident came to light, we instructed our staff to check their respective areas and report any untoward incident. No adverse report has been received so far. Nor has anything untoward has been reported from the Great Rann of Kutch where flamingos roost,” said Vihol.

The officer said it was not common in Gujarat for birds to get killed in hailstorms. “But at the same time, the rainfall in Kutch is also such as not witnessed in the past 10 years at least,” he added.