MITHI, July 7: Expressing serious concern at the recent extensive deaths of peafowl Thari social workers have suggested launching of awareness campaigns for the locals and revival of the old panchayat system.

Aleem Soomro, a social worker, said that in the past when the panchayat system was working in Thar, the locals would take care of the flora and fauna of their area. “Chopping of trees or poaching an animal belonging to rare species was strictly banned. Violators were fined and the quantity of fine was used for welfare works for the community,” he said.

Soomro added that over the course of time the situation changed with rapid rise in population, large scale encroachment, deforestation and drought dealing a deadly blow to the environment.

“Most taraees and tobhas (reservoirs where rainwater is collected and stored) have been destroyed, awarho that stored water from wells meant for animals and birds are non-existent in most villages. Hence all these factors have contributed to the loss of wildlife including peafowl,” said Soomro.

Highlighting the ecological importance of peafowl Soomro said that they killed poisonous reptiles such as snakes, acting as natural protector for Thari inhabitants against snakebites. Hence in villages where there was a reasonable number of peafowl snakebite incidents hardly occurred.

“Now more than 2,000 cases of snakebite are reported annually in Thar because of the depleting population of peafowl owing to the sale of their eggs and chicks, and their unabated poaching and smuggling,” he said.

Soomro called for the revival of the panchayat system and an awareness campaign for locals about what measures they could take to ensure care of the surrounding flora and fauna.

Another veteran social worker and researcher Ali Akbar Rahoomo said that in the past most villagers in rural areas of Thar were affluent and kind-hearted to such an extent that they would feed and water the birds and animals, and doing so was considered as a noble charitable deed by them but nowadays the situation had reversed.

“Most Tharis are now impoverished and cannot even feed their family. Thus they have now stopped feeding peafowl and other birds and animals,” said Rahoomo.

According to him intense heat, lack of water and loss of habitat are primary causes that have made peafowl vulnerable to newcastle disease. “Several peafowls have fallen prey to the disease in Ranpario, Mevo Rind, Sohrab Rind and other villages of Nagarparkar and Chhachhro talukas,” he said.

He also said that even though a considerable number had perished but so far no practical measures had been taken by the wildlife department for the treatment of the ailing birds.

Soomro also had complaints against the wildlife department and alleged that even though it had continued issuing press releases claiming that its teams had vaccinated more that 20,000 birds in Thar, however it had not taken any significant measures for treating and saving this beautiful bird.

Tharparkar Assistant Conservator Lajpat Sharma said that despite acute shortage of staff and vehicles, his teams visited villages and vaccinated ailing birds. He claimed that his team had found four ailing peacocks in Mevo Rind village and provided vaccines to the villagers. He deplored lack of communication facilities in Thar due to which the issue came to their notice rather late.

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