Tharparkar, Pakistan, 04 September 2020: During the launch of a first-of-its-kind vulture status report on Sindh, Ms Naheed Shah Durrani, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, assured the Ministry would work with Sindh Government to declare greater Thar as a national park. She was attending the launch of the report “Status of Vultures in Sindh” organized by IUCN and the Sindh Engro Coal Mining company under their vulture conservation project, currently underway in Thar.
The project is being undertaken by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) in partnership with IUCN, Baanhn Beli and Sindh Wildlife Department.
A key finding of the report confirms that vulture populations are increasing in the province, and apart from Tharparkar – long considered a stronghold of vultures – Khirthar National Park and its extended range up to Gorakh Hills too are now considered population habitat of these critically endangered birds in Sindh.
The ceremony was attended, amongst others, by Ministry of Climate Change Secretary Ms Naheed Shah Durrani; Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, CEO-SECMC, Senator (Retired) Javed Jabbar, Founding President Baanhn Beli, and Conservator Wildlife Sindh Mr. Javed Ahmed Mahar. Other participants included renowned conservation experts, from Pakistan, India, USA, UK, Nepal and Thailand. A large number of representatives of the federal and provincial governments, NGOs, wildlife experts and representatives also attended the event.
In her keynote address, Chief Guest Ms Naheed Shah Durrani, praised the team of IUCN, SECMC, Sindh Wildlife Department and Baanhn Beli, and the Zoological Survey of Pakistan, for their tremendous efforts towards producing “this consolidated and comprehensive baseline report on vultures in Sindh, which is the first of its kind in the province.”
“I am overwhelmed by this data and topic, and this is a topic of such importance. Every time such topics are discussed, we get to know the ground realities and it helps us form the context of conservation in Pakistan. Such research is always useful and carries a huge amount of information and data, which helps us become more aware and formulate our strategies in conservation in Pakistan. This work is extremely useful – given the importance of these critically endangered scavengers to our ecosystems,” observed Ms. Durrani.
Ms. Naheed Durrani asked the government of Sindh to start preparing the concept on National Park in Tharparkar for which she assured full support of the Ministry of Climate Change.
She further noted that Ministry is becoming overly conscious about protecting our ecosystems, wildlife sanctuaries and Protected Areas. “Hence this kind of work contributes to our mission, and we can then see how we can jointly take such initiatives forward, and make use of the realistic and solid recommendations given by experts,” she added.
This work also helps us create greater awareness amongst the people as well as in the government functionaries and communities, and eventually goes towards the improvement and survival of such precious habitats, she explained.
Ms. Durrani congratulated SECMC, IUCN, Baahnh Beli and the Sindh Wildlife Department for this overarching and precious work that has been produced by amazing teams of experts.
The survey team was led by Dr. Z.B. Mirza, a renowned world-class birds’ expert in Pakistan, along with Mr. Naveed Soomro from IUCN and Ms Farwa Sharriff. At IUCN, the project is being managed by Mr. Naveed Soomro, himself a conservation expert, who has contributed immensely to the survey and the project.
In his presentation, Dr. Z. B. Mirza said that Tharparkar is a unique region, where four species of vultures are resident and three are migratory. He termed the increasing population of dogs as a great threat to the vultures. He also said that overgrazing and over capacity are also factors for decline of vultures. He said that lopping of trees as a fodder in the area reduced the opportunity of nesting for vultures. Fast growth and overpopulation of humans and degradation of habitats is a vicious cycle. He recommended that monitoring of vultures conservation should be started. He further said that awareness raising among the residents is must for making the efforts fruitful.
Senator (Retired) Javed Jabbar thanked SECMC, IUCN and Sindh WIldilfe Department and appreciated their unique collaboration for a common cause towards conserving vulture population. He termed this effort to be a part of the global struggle to preserve biodiversity. He also appreciated the efforts the team of Dr. Mirza for conducting the survey in difficult conditions during summer and winter seasons for producing a pioneering landmark publication. He said that Vultures are disappearing because of irrational use of a drug. He mentioned a horrific revelation of the survey result that only 15% of the stores are aware that the drug is dangerous for the vulture population.
Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, CEO-SECMC, explained the background for this initiative, and how this project was evolved. He noted that SECMC, despite a coal company, was all for preserving and conserving nature, and was trying to contribute, amongst other areas, to biodiversity conservation in Thar as well under its exemplary CSR. He said “we welcomed the suggestion from Sindh Wildlife, that the survey be undertaken in the entire Sindh province, instead of just Thar, as our purpose was to get a job done well, he said. He was appreciative of the work done by IUCN, Sindh Wildlife Department and Baanhn Beli and said SECMC was equally committed to improving the environment of Thar, through such conservation projects.
Mr. Javed Meher, Chief Conservator, Sindh Wildlife Department appreciated the efforts in conducting this intensive survey. He further said that the future course of action for the vulture conservation in Sindh has been esthetically laid down in this report. He was of the view that the protection of the habitat of vultures is essential to make the conservation efforts fruitful. He assured full support of the Sindh Wildlife in the conservation efforts as and when required.
In his remarks, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, IUCN Country Representative Pakistan, appreciated generous financial support of SECMC, strong partnership of Baanhn Beli and technical support of Sindh Wildlife Department helped in conducting this detailed survey of entire province of Sindh. He mentioned that the vulture population in Pakistan has steeply declined over the last 20 years or so, and accelerated efforts are now underway to save these large, magnificent birds, from the many threats they have been facing.
He blamed the “diclofenac sodium – a pain killer drug normally administered to livestock for rapid vanishing of the vultures population in the country. He said that despite a ban since 2006 on the production and use of veterinary medicines containing diclofenac, the unauthorized use of the drug has continued with impunity, posing a major threat to this remarkable species.
Mr. Naseer Memon, GM CSR and Communications, at SECMC, gave the vote of thanks and said he was pleased to note that Secretary MOCC, Ms. Naheed Shah Durrani, having done wonderful work in Sindh, was now at the federal level, yet her support continued for such projects especially in Thar. “What we witnessed in Thar, in the form of torrential rains, clearly pointed to the need to do more to fight climate change impacts which were also affecting biodiversity. And this requires us to collaborate for the betterment of our ecosystem and our people, and such collaborations, involving both the development sector and the private sector, help us achieve good results on the ground. He also thanked Senator (Retired) Javed Jabbar and Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema for their continued support.
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For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Naveed Soomro | Manager Thar Programme | IUCN Tel: +92-21-35861540-2 | Cell: 0303-3336249 | [email protected]