Asian Finfoot Birds in the Sundarbans are on the Endangered List
By Amila Khan
The masked finfoot or Asian finfoot (Heliopais personatus) is an aquatic bird from the fresh and brackish wetlands of the eastern Indian subcontinent, Indochina, Malaysia, and Indonesia. (Wikipedia).
This bird in the Sundarbans is always discussed, and the big attraction of any bird watcher is the black-faced Asian finfoot or the beautiful duck. Researchers visit the Sundarbans every year.
Last monsoon season, a reacher traveled a long way from Chandpai Range in the Sundarbans to Sharankhola in the hope of seeing the bird. During that journey, he saw this favorite bird only once in six days. But he didn’t get a chance to take pictures.
We all have the idea that there is no other endangered animal in the Sundarbans than the tiger. But there are several more rare animals in the Sundarbans like the tiger. One of them masked finfoot or Asian finfoot bird.
According to the researchers, there are only 500 surviving birds of this species in the world. And the largest part of this number is seen in our Sundarbans. Although the Sundarbans was once a haven for birds, its number declined at an alarming rate every year.
In such a critical situation, research on this bird in the Sundarbans area started in 2011 under the leadership of Sayem U Chowdhury, a bird researcher. The census covers a large part of the Sundarbans.
The research also looks at how the bird’s reproductive process works and what problems the birds face here.
During the research, a total of 25 bird nests were found. Several of these nests were abandoned. The reproductive process of two pairs of birds in two nests was deeply observed, and the place was inside a narrow canal in the Chita-Katka area.
But it is tough to observe its reproductive process from sitting in this deep canal. So the work was done through camera trapping in collaboration with the forest department.
During this long 23-day process, the nesting and movement of the black-faced Asian finfoot birds are monitored. Ten days after laying the eggs, the male bird leaves the female bird.
He never came back. Such behavior of this species of bird has added a new dimension to research. Then the female bird hatches her eggs alone. Precisely the following year’s research revealed more critical information.
Just before hatching from eggs in a house, an eagle ate all the eggs. The mother bird spent several days near the home and left the area.
Around the world, the black-faced Asian finfoot bird’s habitat crisis is considered the main reason for its loss. The main problem in our Sundarbans is the unplanned fishing of fishermen. Fishers damage their nests while fishing with trapping nets.
The research team has questioned about 100 fishers about the bird. They said that they have hunted and eaten the black-faced Asian finfoot bird’s meat at least once in their life. Most fishermen say they find the bird’s nest while fishing with a trapping net. Then, in the dark of night, he hunts the eggs from his nest.
In the deep Sundarbans the tides have a great impact on the life of the bird. The bird seeks food on the banks of the canal at low tide. Small fish, shrimps, insects and crabs are their main food. Researchers speculate that salinity in the Sundarbans may have an impact on survival.
There is no place in the Sundarbans where tigers, deer, dolphins or crocodiles can be compared to this bird. The bird is different from all other birds because it can survive in the swamp forest.
Although it looks like a duck, it is a black-faced Asian finfoot bird, but it does not belong to the duck family. Many people claim that it is a beautiful duck because of its long yellow lips and green legs.
Apart from Bangladesh, the bird now survives in small numbers in Myanmar and Cambodia. A sanctuary needs to be built from Supati to Chita-Katka in the Sundarbans To save this endangered bird. Our Sundarbans will be a significant habitat for the bird if we can make this trapping net-free zone.