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- Monday, September 03, 2012 - From Print Edition




The changing rain pattern is having disastrous effects on numerous species of indigenous birds, with many of them being unable to breed due to this year’s delayed monsoon rains.


Hussain Bakhsh Bhagat, project director at the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) warned: “Global warming, altering temperatures and changes in climate have resulted in delayed monsoons rains, which have led to a number of species – including birds, mammals, reptiles and insects – missing their breeding season.”


“Peacocks and rain birds, which usually breed between June and July, have also been adversely affected,” he said. The reports of peacock deaths from scattered areas are still coming in.


“Sindh will receive monsoon rains late in September instead of July. This may damage eggs laid by birds such as peacocks and partridges,” he informed The News.


Bhagat, a wildlife expert and a former provincial conservator, believes that in light of these climate changes, new studies must be conducted to ascertain the status of wildlife species.


“Since we do not have authentic data and set parameters, we cannot predict the exact effects this climate change will have. For example, natural habitats have been lost in because of rain shortage and droughts in some areas, and because of flooding in others. We do not have updates on the migration of species, the current water level in reservoirs, or the depletion of lakes and forests,” he said.


He believes the lack of such data is the reason Pakistan does not have a mitigation plan and resolution for conservation of natural assets.


The 2010 floods resulted in colossal losses to partridges, mammals, insects and reptiles, whose habitats were devastated by the disaster. Ever since the floods, small populations of partridges, peacocks and other common but sensitive species have shifted to safer habitats such as the Thar Desert, the mountainous Kacho, and the Chotiary Reservoir of the White Desert.


Prof Ismail Kumbhar of the Agriculture University of Tando Jam said birds will migrate if they do not have access to pleasant weather, safe habitat and food.


Kumbhar, who is researching the impact of climate change on crops, soil, wildlife and water in Badin and the Thar desert, claims that the land in these areas has lost fertility because of scarcity of rain.


“Sindh has only a handful of safe havens for wildlife species, such as the Thar desert, the Rann of Kuch and the province’s mountainous areas,” he said.


According to Kumbhar, different parts of Sindh are currently experiencing different climate-related problems.


“For example, in the coastal areas floods and cyclones have destroyed land fertility. While in other areas drought effects are visible as there is no more vegetation for wildlife with which to feed and nest,” he said.


A status report compiled for WWF finds a clear correlation between climate change and the decline in the number of bird species, suggesting a trend towards major bird extinction from global warming.


Meanwhile, self-proclaimed ‘king of cobras’ Faqir Urs Behrani, has also reported a wide-scale migration of reptiles due to destruction of their habitat.


“Some of these retiles, such as the Indian python, no longer exist in Sindh,” he explained. “There used to be small populations of pythons, king cobras and kraits in the Achhro Thar (White Desert) and the mountainous areas, but now there is no exact data about these animals or their habitats.”


But Behrani is still optimistic. “If the government responds to my suggestion, I can set up snake farms in different areas in the province I have a large number of followers who are trained to deal with these poisonous reptiles in their natural habitats. We know how to develop artificial habitats.”