If we save vultures, we can clean up the whole of Pakistan
— Tharparkar village women leader Ms. Kashi. Community activism spearheads vulture conservation strategy project being jointly implemented in Nagarparkar by Baanhn Beli and IUCN
Nagarparkar : on 22nd-23rd April 2016, a group of journalists of print and electronic media based in Karachi and Hyderabad along with officials of the Government of Sindh visited parts of Nagarparkar Taluka close to the Pakistan-India border in the Tharparkar arid region to be briefed on the National Vulture Conservation strategy-formulation project being implemented by Baanhn Beli and IUCN from 1st July 2015 to 30th June 2016.
Speaking at a meeting attended by village women and men in Goth Malji jo Wandhio, Ms. Kashi w/o Hamtho President of Heera Female Mohalla Development Committee a community-based organization shared the experience of participating in the project and thereby contributing to the protection of endangered species like vultures and to improving human management of the natural environment. Whereas vultures are Nature’s own scavengers which ensure cleanliness and hygiene by consuming the flesh of dead animals, Ms. Kashi said that the on-going effort to protect vultures from extinction is also a symbolic expression of the need to clean up the social, economic and political conditions of Pakistan and prevent their continued pollution.
Several village women and men stressed the need for sustaining the effort beyond the expiration of the project on 30th June 2016. They called for the Federal Government and the Provincial Sindh Government to make the required investment and increase the resources allocated to the departments of wildlife, forestry and environment.
During the past 15 to 20 years, there has been a catastrophic decline in the population of vultures in Pakistan. The primary reason for this decline was discovered to be the use of a medicine called Declofenac, mainly used as a veterinary medicine given to cattle, goats etc. to boost milk yields and kill pain. It was belatedly discovered that when vultures ate the flesh of dead animals which had been given Declofenac injections, causes kidney failure or vultures collapsed leading to their instant deaths and vastly reducing the number of eggs and new births. Even though the Government has banned the production and sale of Declofenac in large quantities, the drug remains available in smaller units while a couple of alternative drugs have also produced fatal impact on vultures. Therefore the effort to conserve the dwindled population of vultures needs to be stepped up. Loss of habitat due to expanding urbanization and other factors have also led to the decline in numbers. One of the few remaining locations in the country where some species of vultures are still found is villages in Nagarparkar Taluka.
Baanhn Beli (www.baanhbeli.org.pk) and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature– www.iucn.org), supported by the small funds programme of the US Ambassador in Pakistan through USAID are presently implementing a project to identify steps required for the formulation and application of a strategy that will help reverse the decline in the number of vultures and promote conservation efforts across Pakistan.
During the first ten months of the project, several phases of work have been successfully completed. These include : sensitization of the village communities to the importance of protecting vulture populations, increasing awareness about the nesting habits and needs of this bird species; enumerating and mapping exact population numbers; marking trees and locations in the Kharunjar Hills where the birds make their nests; preventing intrusion and disruption into such areas by humans and other species; observing how community groups are able to act cohesively for these purposes etc.
The names and affiliations of the journalists and Government officials who participated in the orientation visit on 22nd-23rd April 2016 are Naeem Ullah Kazi deputy director wild life dept. Ghansham Das livestock dept. Nazir Hassan Siyal Daily Times, Anwar Khan Business Recorder, Hamid-ur-Rehman NEO TV, Satram Sangi Sobh/Sindh Express, Waqar Aslam Bhatti The NEWS, Safdar Ali Dharti TV/KTN
Baanhn Beli was represented during this interaction by : founding President, Senator(r) Javed Jabbar; present President Dr. Shankar Lal; Chairman, Advisory Council, Faiz Mohammad Junejo, Treasurer Muhammad Saleem, General Sec. Mushtaq Ahmed dal, member executive committee Ms. Najoo,Yunus Bandhani, Director, Mohammad Khan Marri, Programme Manager, Shabir Ahmed Khoso, Sawai Lal, Kishore Kumar, Ms. Bakhtawer Buledi, Ms. Zeb –ul- Nissa and Ms. Zareena bibi
IUCN was represented by Nadeem Mir Bahar, NRM Coordinator, George Sadiq Program Officer Education, Communication and Outreach.
Zahoor Salmi, who has been commissioned to photograph and produce a short video documentary on the project also participated in this orientation journey and meetings.