‘Kokkare’ – or painted stork – in Buntstorch,Sariska Nationalpark, India.© Ola Jennersten

Kokkarebellur, a village in Karnataka, India, is named after the painted storks – ‘kokkare’ – which migrate there each year to breed. The name expresses the unique relationship that has developed between the people who live there and the two migratory bird populations; the storks along with spot-billed pelicans.

Birds have been uniquely integrated into the lives of local villages for generations. It is also the only community reserve in Karnataka. Wetlands in the area have been a perennial source of water for people, and support the birds along with the rest of the region’s biodiversity. Yet pressures on the water sources have led to this area completely drying up, which is now impacting its biodiversity. Both the painted storks and the spot-billed pelicans are on the ‘near threatened’ category of the IUCN Red List and pressures on the water sources have impacted on the region’s ecology. Mysore Amateur Naturalists (MAN) began conservation efforts in area in 1994 and local community members formed Hejjarle Belaga (Friends of the Pelicans) to anchor concerted efforts towards protection of the birds and their habitats.

Now, a newly revamped Nature Interpretation Centre has been opened to give visitors and locals the chance to learn more about the birds, and build awareness of the need for conservation in the region.

The initiative further aims to develop the project into an ecotourism destination, managed and owned by the community.

 

Watch this video about the unique relationship that has developed between the bird and human inhabitants of Kokkarebellur.

 

The Interpretation Centre is a journey through the lives of the birds and their unique relationship with the villagers.  For the next three years, it will be maintained jointly by Hejjare Belaga, Gram Panchayat, Department of Tourism, the Forest Department, and WWF-India. The partnership will also work towards mitigating threats to birds and their habitats. Conservation initiatives will provide community engagement opportunities to rekindle the connection to the birds through regular awareness building programmes and the revamped Interpretation Centre.

Visitors at the new Nature Interpretation Centre. © WWF-India

Shri. Ziyaullah, Deputy Commissioner, Mandya, who inaugurated the site on 2 June, complemented the local community for their passionate commitment to conservation, and said, “Kokkarebellur represents a unique model of partnership between the communities; government departments and civil society.”

Mr. Subir Mehra, Head – Operations, Global Service Centres, HSBC, added that, “The success of HSBC Water Programme lies in the positive impact it has on the communities it touches. The credit for the change we see in Kokkarebellur and Kunigal goes to the unfailing commitment shown by HSBC colleagues — over the past three years 917 of them have volunteered almost nine thousand hours to make it happen. I take this opportunity to thank WWF-India for their partnership that provides opportunities for our employees to support community programmes.”

“The Interpretation Centre at Kokkarebellur is a wonderful opportunity for insight to the biodiversity of the region. Working in partnership with the government, HSBC and other organizations, we hope that initiatives like these go a long way in building awareness of the importance of such areas and inspire people to play an integral role in conserving biodiversity across the country” shared Mr. Ravi Singh, CEO and SG, WWF-India.

The Interpretation Centre is part of WWF-India’s ‘Aardhrabhumi- Wetlands for Life’, project supported by the HSBC Water Programme. The initiative works on wetland rejuvenation to reverse the loss of biodiversity, and improve ecological conditions while improving the well-being of local communities through natural resource-based livelihood. 

Kokkare-themed installation at the Interpretation centre. © WWF-India

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