Coastal wetlands are unusual habitats. The soil is squelchy and full of clay, the water is salty because of the mingling of seawater, and the landscape is always changing — continually moulded and remoulded by the daily tides. The salinity and constant flooding makes it difficult for most species of plants to grow, which is what makes mangroves so wondrous.
Mangroves are trees and shrubs found in tropical inter-tidal zones, between sea and land. To thrive in their unusual habitat, these species have evolved in remarkable ways. Some have raised roots that look like skeletal legs, others have aerial roots that stick out of the soil, like snorkel tubes. There are over 100 species of mangroves in the world, and they are integral to the balanced working of coastal ecosystems.
In India, mangroves protect our coastlines from erosion, weather events like cyclones, and keep our groundwater sources from being infiltrated by saline water. Among the many mangrove habitats in our country is Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area on the eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh. Coringa (originally Korangi) covers an area of 235 sq km and hosts the second-largest contiguous mangrove forest in the country, after the Sundarbans.
It has 24 species of mangroves, and has numerous species of wildlife, from jackals and fishing cats to pit vipers and yellow fiddler crabs, each of which has evolved to thrive in their wetland homes. Mornings in the park are marked by bird call, afternoons by the gentle sound of lapping water, and evenings by the buzz of insects. It is truly a special ecosystem, worthy of our respect and protection.