The incoming set-up must ensure that recent restrictions on particular veterinary drugs, typically used in the breeding of livestock, are enforced. For there has long been a proven link between certain toxic compounds and the country’s near extinct vulture population. And with Sindh’s top drug regulator now on board — no one can afford to lose this momentum.But why should anyone care about these aesthetically displeasing birds of prey? Well, there are several reasons. First and foremost being that vultures hold the key to a robust ecosystem as well as long-term human health. Their iron-cast digestive tracts make them the perfect scavenger; allowing them to withstand infected meat and carcasses. More importantly, they do not pass on disease to humans in the same way that feral dogs or rats do. Not to forget that vultures represent the most effective waste disposal system in South Asia. Yet the biggest threat to their survival are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These contribute to renal failure when ingested. Yet since 2006, only one such drug has been banned here in Pakistan. Despite the region’s collective vulture population having been decimated by more than 95 percent from the mid-1990s onwards.Thus the new government will have its hands full as it navigates the path towards a green Pakistan. A good place to start would be reaching out to readymade partners, of which there are several. Such as the Pakistan Vulture Restoration Project (PVRP). The latter has spent the last 12 years working in conjunction with World Wildlife Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF-P) and Britain’s Hawk Conservatory Trust on two crucial projects: a breeding centre in the Punjab and what it terms as a community-led vulture safe zone in Sindh. Indeed, it was the PVRP that lobbied the Sindh Health Department to recommend the latest NSAID restrictions. Having said that, all relevant state ministries must be empowered to the point whereby the urgency of the situation is clearly understood. And this means listening to and consulting with local and international experts and visiting vulture breeding grounds and reserves. The incoming set-up will also have to be prepared to stand up to the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. This is not to overlook the targeting of schools with educational packages; interactions with specialists in the classroom as well as ‘on site’. For it is vital that the young generation has a vested interest in understanding how their fate is linked to that of the ecosystem.And it is hoped that, as an added bonus, the vulture will cease to exist in the collective imagination as a thing of devastating ugliness. For, in truth, given all that these feathered outcasts do for us — they are creatures of great beauty. * Published in Daily Times, August 10th 2018.