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The Marine National Park (16, 289 ha) and Sanctuary (29,503 ha) is located in the inter-tidal zone, extending over 170 km along the coast of Jamnagar in the Gulf of Kutch, and includes 42 islands. This is the first protected marine area in India (Singh 2001). The protected area includes 14,928 ha of islands and 30,864 ha of the coastal zone. A total of 1,071 ha area of the National Park and 111 ha area of Sanctuary have been notified as reserved forests, whereas 12,238 ha of the National Park and 22,552 ha of the Sanctuary is notified under Sec-4 of Indian Forest Act, 1927. Areas of 2,980 ha of the National Park and 6,840 ha of the Sanctuary have non-forest status, being categorized as territorial waters of India. 39,840 ha overlapping area of the Park and Sanctuary was also notified under the Port Act before 1980 for maritime activities (Singh 2001) Flora includes seven species of mangroves, namely Avicennia officinalis, A. marina, A. alba, Rhizophora mucronata, Ceriops candolleana, Aegiceros conniculalum, 120 species of algae and several species of grasses, shrubs and herbs. Some other important plant species include Cyperus sp., Suaeda sp., Commiphora wightii, Salvadora sp., Aeluropus logopoides, Sporobolus, Cressa cretica and Capparis sp. (Singh 2001).
AVIFAUNA: A total of 86 waterbirds was recorded in the salt works, and 80 species on the islands and coasts along the Gulf (Naik et al. 1991). With its long coastline, broad intertidal mudflats, coral reefs, sand and rock beaches, the Marine NP offers a great diversity of habitats for birds. Immense numbers of migratory birds pass through the Park and others parts of the Gulf of Kutch, and a small population of most of the species, mainly juveniles and non-breeding adults, spend the summer here (Naik et al. 1991). Marine NP is an important region as it borders the Little and Great Ranns (both IBAs) that hold the only breeding populations of Greater Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser P. minor Flamingos, White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus and Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta in the country, and a very large number of both species of flamingos spend most of the year along its coast. There are 42 islands in the Marine National Park, with Pirotan as the star attraction. Some of these islands have colonies of breeding birds such as the Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Great Egret Casmerodius albus, Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Little Heron Butorides striatus, Oriental White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus and Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (Naik et al. 1991). Globally threatened species include the Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, and Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis. Much more than 20,000 waterbirds congregate here regularly so the site fulfils A4iii criteria. The Marine National Park is perhaps one of the few sites which also fulfils A4iv criteria of BirdLife International (undated), i.e. the site is known or thought to exceed thresholds set for migratory species at bottleneck sites. A very large number of birds pass through this site, on way to their onward migration.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Of the 42 islands, 33 have coral reefs and these with the mangroves along the coast and the intertidal areas, support several species of marine biota. Studies carried out by various institutions record 70 species of sponges, 56 species of hard and soft corals, 180 species of fishes, 27 species of prawns, 30 species of crabs, more than 200 species of molluscs, over 12 species of echinoderms, 5 species of annelids, many species of reptiles including three species of endangered sea turtles and more than three species of sea mammals, namely Dugong Dugong dugon, Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis and Whale Physeter catodon (Singh 1998).
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Marine National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 15/07/2020.