Name of the organisation
The Salem Ornithological Foundation (SOF) (சேலம் பறவையியல் கழகம் in Tamil) is a youth-led, registered, not-for-profit organization established in 2017 in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India. Our goal is to contribute to the knowledge and conservation of Salem’s birdlife, environment, biodiversity and climate change through education, research and innovative solutions. We work in different habitats ranging from wetlands, forests, scrub jungles, farmlands to the mountains of Eastern Ghats. Education programmes are closest to our hearts because we strongly believe that children are the seeds of hope towards creating a sustainable and peaceful world. We also take focused measures to encourage the participation and leadership of women in conservation initiatives. In addition to promoting bird and nature conservation, our work also aspires to enhance and protect the livelihood options for the local, rural and tribal communities.
Description of the centre
The goal of upcoming and proposed “SOF Centre for Nature Learning and Research” is connecting people to nature through birds. The centre will be located around the Stanley Reservoir in Mettur, Salem and will have interpretation centre, library, research facilities, education and skill development programs, observatory, visitor centre, guided nature walks and trails, interactive games and presentations, takeaway activities, nature souvenir shop, publications, e-newsletters, magazines, books, booklets, brochures, documentaries, camping facilities for children, youths and researchers, mobile exhibits, site information, posters, public signage and boards, etc.
Main CEPA work area
Wetlands are the source of water that supports all forms of life. We help people to cultivate and nurture the connections with nature through birds. Our work strives to promote the value of wetlands by communication, outreach and education especially for school children and by undertaking systematic and long-term monitoring of waterbird populations, wetland restoration and strong community engagement so that wetlands can be treasured, appreciated and protected for their beauty and the life resources they provide us.
The primary habitat in the location is a freshwater wetland, the Stanley Reservoir; farmlands and scrub jungle hillocks adjoin the reservoir. We have recorded 178 species of birds including the Vulnerable—White-naped Tit, Wolly-necked Stork, Indian Spotted Eagle and the Near-threatened—Spot-billed Pelican, Oriental Darter, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Red-necked Falcon, Black-tailed Godwit. The location also serves as a wintering ground for European Bee-eaters.
Species of Conservation Concern based on the State of India’s Birds report: Small Minivet, Common Woodshrike, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Common Greenshank, Rufous-tailed Lark, Oriental Skylark, Small Pratincole, Little Stint, Sirkeer Malkoha and Blue Rock Thrush.
Other non-avian key species that use the habitat include the endangered Asian Elephant and the vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter.
Top three successes
Since 2017, we have conducted more than 150 outreach, education and awareness programs and reached out to more than 10,000 school children, college students, teachers and the public alike. Each year in January we conduct and coordinate the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) in Salem to assess the status of the population of waterbirds over time. The information generates is used to identify wetlands of high importance for waterbirds, and take conservation measures such as designation of Ramsar Sites, or inclusion as priority wetlands within important planning programmes. In addition to the AWC, we consistently monitor waterbird populations across all seasons of a year. The obtained information can be used to assess the dynamics of the resident and migratory waterbird populations. Our prime monitoring location is the Stanley Reservoir, Mettur in Salem district where thousands of birds use the habitat every year. The proposed centre will take and expand these activities to a higher level.
Top three challenges
Lack of funds to conservation activities and socio-economic barriers especially among the youths are some of the biggest challenges in our region.
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