UMERKOT, June 12: Nineteen more peacocks reportedly died in different villages in Diplo taluka on Wednesday which appeared to have died of the highly contagious Newcastle disease, raising the death toll to 41 since the outbreak of the disease in the desert two weeks ago.

The wildlife department has since been in a state of denial about the birds’ deaths as well the disease causing its decimation.

The disease which was first reported in Tharparkar two weeks ago has now spread to other areas of the vast Thar desert.

Villagers told Dawn that they had witnessed deaths of 28 peacocks over the past two weeks, including the 19 which died that day.

They feared the actual number of deaths could be more because when the bird died in the desert, its carcass was eaten up by other animals.

Social activist Nasrullah Samoo said it was highly regretful that the birds had been dying for two weeks but the wildlife department had done nothing but used its energies on proving the reports false.

The disease had been decimating the birds for three years but the department had not bothered to prepare a strategy to save it, he said.

More than 300 birds had reportedly died of the same disease in 2011 and 2012 during peak summer days in Tharparkar, Umerkot and Mirpurkhas districts.

According to villagers, peacocks grow weak by each day and spew its juices to death after contracting the disease. They use traditional methods to cure the birds but to no avail, they say.

A bird infected with new castle disease may have tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, complete paralysis, swelling of tissues around the eyes and neck, emit body fluids and produce misshapen, rough or thin shelled eggs.