Flamingos fly over a water body in Nagarparkar (picture courtesy WWF) and (right) a northern pintail seen at Borith Lake, Gojal, Gilgit-Baltistan (picture by Imran Shah). 
Flamingos fly over a water body in Nagarparkar (picture courtesy WWF) and (right) a northern pintail seen at Borith Lake, Gojal, Gilgit-Baltistan (picture by Imran Shah). 

KARACHI: Pakistan has seen an increase in the population of migratory birds across its water bodies over the last two years, raising the hope that the country can become a safe haven for these species, said World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) officials on Saturday.

Their comments came in the backdrop of World Migratory Birds Day, observed on May 8.

Pakistan lies at the crossroads for bird migration, with its wetlands attracting high numbers annually in the winter. These birds arrive through the international migration route known as the Indus Flyway, from Siberia and over the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Sulaiman ranges along the Indus River down to its delta.

They include a wide variety of ducks and waders, houbara bustards, cranes, teals, pintail, mallard, geese, spoonbills, raptors, and passerines such as warblers, pipits and buntings. Some species, including the common and Demoiselle cranes, snipe and pelican enter via the Kurram District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Since all migratory species are hunted in Pakistan and ducks are mercilessly killed every year, the population of some duck species, including white-eyed pochard, marbled teal and garganey, has drastically decreased,” said WWF-P official Asif Sandeelo.

Cranes are hunted and trapped in KP, Balochistan

He said that cranes because of their size and beauty, unique calls, and complex behaviour were hunted and trapped during their migration in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The official attributed the increase in migratory birds’ population over the last two years to multiple factors.

“Timely monsoons and efforts of provincial governments and local communities to protect wildlife are the key reasons behind this positive change. We must continue to conserve our wetlands with a strict ban on hunting and creating awareness amongst locals about biodiversity conservation.”

On this day, WWF-P has released a video of migratory birds that take refuge at the Borith Lake in Gilgit-Baltistan.

A picturesque and placid lake surrounded by jagged mountain peaks of the mighty Karakoram, this small saline lake has become an important biodiversity hotspot for migratory birds on their passage between Central Asia and the subcontinent. As a result of a ban on hunting, Borith Lake today is a bright example of what a healthy ecosystem should look like.

“Nature conservation, ecosystem services and the well-being of human beings are linked with the protection of migratory birds. It is our joint responsibility to protect wild species, including birds, which play a crucial role in maintaining this ecosystem,” said WWF-P director general Hammad Naqi Khan.

Migratory birds, he said, faced several threats in Pakistan which included habitat loss and degradation, pollution, illegal trade, and ruthless hunting.

“The birds not only help control the population of insects and some fish species, but also improve habitat for other wildlife. Relevant provincial wildlife departments should curb illegal trade and ruthless hunting of wildlife, including birds.”

The organisation appealed to the public to help revive the country’s natural landscape by engaging in environment-friendly activities and providing a pollution-free space to wildlife to thrive.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2021

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