Pretty in pink: flamingos flock to site of proposed golf course amid India's coronavirus shutdown

Like wild animals across the world, migratory birds appear to be making the most of the absence of humans

Flamingos make the most of India's lockdown

Flamingos make the most of India's lockdown
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India's coronavirus lockdown has allowed migratory pink flamingos to enjoy a traditional stopping point in peace for possibly the last time.

Tens of thousands of the birds have congregated at the Talawe Wetlands, a mangrove forest near India's financial capital, Mumbai, and about three kilometres from the Arabian Sea.

The area was controversially approved for development into a golf course, but with all non-essential economic activity now suspended and people largely confined to their homes, the flamingos have been left in peace, undisturbed even by bird watchers.

The flamingos have been annual visitors to the area since the 1980s, but this year their numbers have been higher, according to nearby residents of Mumbai's satellite city, Navi Mumbai.

"It is like a pink carpet. We feel blessed to see these beautiful birds. While these birds come in huge numbers every year, this year seems different as there are too many of them," said Sunil Agarwal, a nature lover and resident of the area for the past six years. 
The wetland was dry two weeks ago but has since been filled by high tides, creating the perfect setting for the flamingos, he said.

"With absence of humans like photographers, birdwatchers or fishermen to disturb them, they seem to be enjoying these wetlands even more and can relax without any worries," Mr Agarwal said.

The flamingos appeared to be in flocking areas around Mumbai in greater numbers for a second year in a row. A census conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society in January 2019 counted about 121,000 of the birds, or about three times the usual number.

Mr Agarwal's flat overlooks the site of the proposed golf course, which was sold to a private company by a state agency, the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra, after assuring the coastal zone management authority that it was not wetland.

Mr Agarwal and fellow environmental campaigners mounted a legal challenge against the sale that is now before India's supreme court.

With the large number of birds showing up this year, activists are asking for the wetland to be turned into a flamingo sanctuary.