- Migratory birds have been thronging the JU campus for 35 years
- There is no poaching of migratory birds in the university
- 97%-98% of the birds that come to JU campus are native migratory birds
- 126 species of native birds and 69 species of migratory birds are found on the campus
The Jahangirnagar University (JU) campus starts buzzing with the chirping of migratory birds at the beginning of winter every year.
Although there are many more ponds and open spaces in the vicinity, the migratory birds flock to the 700-acre campus only. Sometimes they fly in the sky in groups, and sometimes they float in the water of the lake filled with water lilies.
For the last 35 years, the JU campus has been known as a winter resort for these migratory birds. This year is no exception. At the beginning of November, different kinds of birds, including chhoto sarali, boro sarali, jalpippi, shamuk khol and gobok, have flocked to the JU campus.
In reply to a query as to why the migratory birds throng the JU campus although there are many water bodies in the surrounding countryside, Dr Md Kamrul Hasan, professor at the zoology department of the university and also a wildlife conservation researcher, said, "The reason is the safety of the birds. There is a lack of security in the surrounding water bodies. That is why the birds do not feel comfortable going there."
"Besides, there is no poaching of migratory birds in the university. All the students, teachers and employees of the university are very much aware of the safety of birds," he added.
In 1986, migratory birds were seen for the first time in the JU lakes. Since then, they have been coming here every winter. Due to the awareness of the university authorities and students, Jahangirnagar has become a safe haven for winter birds.
According to the administration, there are at least 26 lakes on the JU campus, big and small. However, only four of these lakes are home to the migratory birds. These four lakes are not leased. In the absence of fish farming or use of pesticides, the lakes naturally grow bird food.
Professor Hasan said that 97%-98% of the birds that come to Jahangirnagar are local migratory or native migratory birds. Chhoto sarali or pati sarali is one of them. This bird comes to Jahangirnagar from the haor region of the country at the beginning of winter.
Some boro saralis also come to the JU campus. These are basically foreign guests, coming from the Himalayan basin of India and Nepal.
Professor Hassan said, "These do not stay long on campus. They come, rest at the campus for a while, eat and drink, and then leave."
According to a survey conducted by the zoology department of the university, about 90 species of birds were found when migratory birds first started coming to the campus over three decades ago. This number gradually increased to about 200. There are 126 species of native birds and 69 species of migratory birds. Among them, several species of birds are always seen on campus.
Number of migratory birds decreasing
Students have said the number of birds on campus is slowly declining. This year, the number of migratory birds is less than half than in the previous year.
In this regard, Professor Hasan said, "Since the campus is next to Dhaka, naturally a good number of visitors come here. It is not possible to stop them even if the university administration wants to. Many visitors drive their cars to the shores of the lake. This has become a big problem."
"This problem can be solved only if visitors follow instructions. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the university administration to work alone in this regard," he said, adding, "The peak time of the arrival of migratory birds has not started yet. The number of birds usually increases from the beginning to the middle of December. The number of birds is expected to increase further by mid-December."
Bird fair at the university
Jahangirnagar University has been organising a bird fair every year to raise awareness about bird conservation. It has been held at the Zaheer Raihan Auditorium of the university since 2000. Initially, the bird fair was organised by the Bangladesh Birds Club, but later it was joined by the zoology department of the university. The department has been organising this fair since 2005, in association with several other voluntary organisations, including Bangladesh Birds Club.
It was not possible, though, to hold this event due to the lockdown last year. If everything goes well, the administration is contemplating holding the bird fair at the beginning of the new year, on 7 January, said Professor Hasan.
Researchers believe that without raising public awareness, it is not possible to protect migratory birds. If the birds cannot stay safe and comfortable on the campus, their number will continue to decrease day by day. Due to the special care and conservation policy of the university, the migratory birds have been coving over the JU campus for over three decades.
Experts apprehend that if visitors do not become aware, a day might soon come when the campus may become bird-free, to the detriment of the environment.