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Sarus cranes in Nagarparkar

May 29, 2012

THIS is apropos of the news report ‘Sarus cranes seen in Pakistan after a decade’ (May 26). It is encouraging that ‘Save Wildlife and Nature’ has brought to limelight the threat of extinction to sarus cranes in Pakistan.

Besides, it would be important to keep on radar two other birds, houbara bustard and the peregrine and saker falcons, that are found in Tharparkar, and are under continuous and unabated hunting expeditions by local and foreign influentials over the last one-and-a-half decades.

The optimal habitat of sarus cranes includes a combination of marshes, ponds, fallow and cultivated lands. Some of the locations in Nagarparkar, particularly near Virawah, Bhansar, Adhigam and Naryasar villages, provide them such a rare friendly habitat. During a field survey held in February 1993 seven sarus cranes were observed at Sangha Talla near Virawah village and Jam Khan jo Vandio, and four birds were spotted at Naryasar pond near Bhansar Shora village .

Again in November 1993, during another survey, some 16 sarus cranes were observed in the same area. A small flock of five to six sarus cranes were sighted at the Nalyasar and Bhansar ponds in 1999. Someone shot dead one of these rare birds and the other flew away.

These lovely and shy houbara bustards migrate from the Kizil Kum desert of Central Asia and arrive in Tharparkar by the mid of November. Houbara lays only two eggs, making it one of the most precious species. So far all efforts carried out under extremely controlled conditions and expensive methods for artificial breeding of the bird have failed. Houbara is listed under the Bonn Convention on migratory species of wild animals. The World Conservation Union has declared it as an endangered species.

The hunting of houbara bustard also involves threat to species of endangered falcons -- the peregrine and saker falcons -- which are being continuously poached and traded for multi-millions in the hunters market.

Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (Cites), which had been expressing its concern over the poaching and trading of the falcon. The trade, however, continues, and now the dwindling stock of houbara bustards and falcons has been reduced to double-digit figures.

There are laws and regulations already in place, but someone needs to be there who has the will and power to enforce them in letter and in spirit.