HYDERABAD, July 18: A division bench of the Sindh High Court, Hyderabad circuit, comprising Justices Faisal Arab and Riazat Ali Sahar, directed a deputy conservator of the wildlife department in Hyderabad on Thursday to submit a written report on steps taken to protect peafowl.

The bench adjourned the matter to Aug 22 after hearing the official, who enumerated the steps being taken to protect the birds.

The order was passed on a constitutional petition filed by a social-activist-cum-lawyer, Roshan Ali Azeem. The wildlife official filed para-wise comments on behalf of the wildlife secretary, animal husbandry director and other respondents in the petition.

The petitioner cited the secretary of forest and wildlife, director of animal husbandry, deputy conservator of wildlife, deputy commissioner of Tharparkar, district game warden of Tharparkar and district officer of animal husbandry Tharparkar as respondents.

The petitioner stated in his petition that peafowl were two Asian and one African species of flying birds, adding that they were among nature’s most beautiful birds. Peafowl preferred lowland and foothills with brush and scattered trees which they used for roosting.

He argued that peafowl, bird assets of Pakistan, were dying due to a mysterious viral disease in Tharparkar district. Such deaths had been reported in Nagarparkar, Mithi, Diplo and some villages of Tharparkar. The Newcastle disease had killed 300 peafowl last year. This year the bird might be suffering from the same disease as symptoms were similar. No team of the wildlife department had visited the affected areas.

He said the department said only a few birds had died of disease but media reports said a substantial number of birds had died. Around 40,000 peafowl were reported in Tharparkar but the number was declining because of poaching and lack of effective conservation. He urged livestock, animal husbandry and wildlife department officials to take action but they didn’t.

He asked the court to direct the authorities to take serious action to check an outbreak of disease in Tharparkar peafowl. He said the respondents should be directed to clarify how the outbreak of diseases took place again and why did not they vaccinate them.

The deputy conservator of wildlife stated that a detailed survey in 190 villages of Tharparkar district was carried out between March and June, which showed that two peafowl died — one in Dedhvero Surachand of Nagarparkar taluka, which died from age and the other near Mithi from electrocution. The viral disease occurred only in three villages of Diplo – Sajai, Dabri, Sengalo — and in Mevo Rind, a taluka of Chhachhro, where 20 peafowl died from a viral attack from poultry.

He contested the petitioner’s statement, saying last year 72 peafowl died of the disease and not 300. Reports in the media about deaths of peafowl and spread of virus were incorrect and published to blackmail government departments without any proof. Peafowl were very sensitive birds, and even their mere catching could cause their death. However, every effort was made by the department to protect them against the disease. A vaccination drive (22,000 dozes) was carried out in 190 villages of Tharparkar district until June.

It was due to effective measures of the department that the disease was contained. About 70,000 peacocks could be counted and witnessed in Tharparkar, which would not have been there if disease had hit them on a mass scale.

The official said samples of affected birds were collected and sent to the Poultry Research Institute (PRI) Karachi for diagnosis. Then, according to the PRI prescription, 22,000 dozes of vaccine were administered.