Monday, February 14, 2011

Concern Over Increasing Peacock Deaths in Pakistan's Thar Region

A peacock pair

The peacock is reputed to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world. The male's tail is a train of dazzling colors, symbolizing grace and beauty. The bird has always been a subject of arts worldwide, but it is in India where it has been given a more prestigious status. The peacock has played a major role in the Hindu mythology, in which it served as a vahana to war god Kartikeya and is often depicted with Saraswati, the goddess of learning and arts. With such popularity, it is no wonder that the peacock is India's national bird. When visiting the Indian subcontinent, one would see a peacock anywhere; including towns, country villages, and even public parks. However, one particular region of the mighty Thar Desert located in Pakistan's Sindh Province has a different story. There, the recent deaths of two peacocks has raised concern among wildlife conservationists. The reports were sent to Bharumal Amrani, an official for the Society of Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE), who feared that more than hundred of these birds might have died in the neighborhoods of Mithi, Islamkot, and Nagarparkar. Although he is unsure about the places and the exact number of birds that died, Mr. Amrani stated that other SCOPE officials had lodged complaints to the Sindh Wildlife Department. Unfortunately for them, the department's officials denied the issue.

Another person who is looking into this issue is Arbab Nek Mohammad, who is also supervising a project with the UNDP Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Program to conserve the Thar Desert's peacock population. The information collected by their organizational network showed that at least 500 birds have died so far. According to Mr. Mohammad, the possible reasons for their demise were the lack of feeding, especially grains, in their habitat and the biting cold in the area. He further added that he and the program has developed hundred points for the birds in the region from the Sanghar to Tharparkar Districts, in order to protect them. But, since the authorities have not taken any action, he fears that the remaining birds might not survive. In addition to that, conservationists say that there could be several other possibilities for the birds' deaths. One theory is that the villagers used to fill water in their pots, which attracted the birds in order to quench their thirst. However, due to displacement of communities, drought in some areas may have contributed to their mortality. Another theory states that pesticides may be main cause.

This issue, in my opinion, is a major problem in Pakistan. I'm also very much surprised and shocked to see that the Sindh Wildlife Department had turned a deaf ear towards this issue. If there is a problem concerning the local wildlife in the region, then the department is supposed to play its role in the matter. I feel that an issue like this should be thoroughly investigated, in order to find out the cause(s) for the deaths of these magnificent birds. And that means a full collaboration with conservationists, who are looking into this issue and the Sindh Wildlife Department. Also, it would also be helpful if the villagers help out as well. The villagers in the Tharparkar Districts are said to be conservationists, which would make it useful for the authorities to tackle the problem. In addition to that, I also feel that it is helpful that other villagers be educated about the ecological importance of having peacocks around their villages. In addition to feeding on insects, the birds are also famous for taking on venomous snakes which the people fear. Without the peacock, how will the Thar ecosystem be kept in balance?

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