Let the birds sing, let the birds fly

Habitat fragmentation, pollution and ruthless hunting are major threats to migratory birds

Let the birds sing, let the birds fly

KARACHI: Nations around the globe will be celebrating World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) today on May 10th, to create awareness about the bird fauna, while in Pakistan, shrinking water bodies, habitat loss, environmental degradation, water pollution, illegal trade and ruthless hunting are said to be the biggest challenges for provincial governments, specially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to protect and conserve the migratory birds.

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006 and is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.

This year’s theme for WMBD is “Their Future is our Future – A Healthy Planet for Migratory Birds and People”, highlights the need for conservation and protection of diverse bird fauna.

Pakistan lies at a crossroads for bird migration with its wetlands, attracting high numbers of birds annually in the winter season. These birds arrive through the international migration route known as the Indus Flyway, from Siberia and over the Karakorum, Hindu Kush, and Suleiman Ranges along the Indus River down to the delta and include a wide variety of ducks and waders, houbara bustard, cranes, teals, pintail, mallard, geese, spoon bills, raptors, and passerines such as warblers, pipits and buntings. Some species including common and Demoiselle cranes, snipe and pelican enter via the Kurram Agency of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

“The habitat loss, shrinking water bodies, pollution and illegal hunting can be said the biggest challenges to protect these migratory birds,” said Saeed Akhtar Baloch, provincial conservator, Sindh Wildlife Department.

Talking to Daily Times, Baloch said that Sindh Wildlife Department conducts annual survey of the migratory birds on regular basis and the numbers of these birds are on declined every year.

Migratory birds face a number of problems in Pakistan which include habitat loss and degradation; pollution, illegal trade and ruthless hunting.  Although, almost all migratory species are hunted in Pakistan and ducks are cruelly and mercilessly killed every year. The populations of some duck species, including white-eyed pochard, marbled teal, white eyed pochard and garganey, have drastically decreased.

Cranes, because of their size and beauty, unique calls, and complex behavior are ruthlessly hunted and trapped during their migration in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In Balochistan they are hunted in Zhob and Lasbela (Sonmiani and Saranda Lake area) and hundreds are trapped and poached.

They are transported in inhumane conditions to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where they are kept as pets. Hundreds die during trapping and transportation. WWF-Pakistan stressed the need for the Wildlife Departments of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to curb this illegal trade and ruthless hunting. WWF-Pakistan is working with communities in Lasbela district to control their trade.  

It is believed that there is interdependence of people and nature, and more specifically people and migratory birds. Anthropogenic activities can have negative impact on bird migration, especially the disappearance of wetlands and degradation of bird habitats.

On the occasion of World Migratory Bird Day, WWF-Pakistan stressed the need to create awareness about the bird fauna of Pakistan and called for taking measures to protect migratory species which are declining in country.

Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes WWF-Pakistan, pointed out that all stakeholders including government agencies, NGOs, academia and above all students should act jointly to protect migratory birds, conserve wetlands and help spread awareness about the country’s natural assets. ‘This is an essential required to understand the changes in the migration pattern,’ he added.

Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor Marine Fisheries, WWF-Pakistan pointed out that climate change is also affecting the bird migration. Wintering birds started arriving in October every year; however, for the past few years birds arrive in November. It seems that the migration trends of birds are changing and the duration these birds’ stay in Pakistan has decreased substantially.