LAHORE: The first ever breeding records of endangered Egyptian vulture in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) reveal that only 68 vultures were seen in a 835-kilometre distance.

According to a study by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan to explore the breeding population of endangered Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the AJK, a field survey was carried out in June 2014.

A total of 835-kilometre distance was travelled in the AJK covering Mirpur, Kotli, Sudhnoti, Poonch, Bagh and Muzaffarabad districts.

During the survey, 68 Egyptian vultures -- adults, sub adults and juveniles -- were seen. In addition to the Egyptian vultures, critically endangered white-backed vultures were also seen in different locations. Previously this specie was known a resident of the plains of Punjab and Sindh province and locally migratory in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern mountain regions of Pakistan.

The report says the Egyptian vulture, also called the white scavenger vulture, is a small sized bird distributed from southwestern Europe, northern Africa to India. Egyptian vulture populations have declined in most parts of its range. In Europe and most of the Middle East, populations in 2001 were half of those from 1980. In India, the decline has been rapid with a 35 per cent decrease each year since 1999.

The exact cause of the decline is not known, but has been linked with the use of the NSAID Diclofenac, which has been known to cause death in Gyps vultures. The communities reported that birds die because people poison livestock carcasses to kill leopards.

Published in Dawn, July 19th , 2014

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