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EDITORIAL: Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature regularly puts out a Red List of endangered species, the UN has launched a fist report of its kind, under the Convention on Migratory Species (SMS), on the state of the world’s migratory animals, making the alarming revelation that nearly half (44 percent) of migratory animals population shows decline while one in five (22 percent) of these species are threatened with extinction.

The risk of extinction is growing as most (51 percent) key biodiversity areas important for these animals do not have protected status whilst 58 percent of the monitored sites recognised as being vital for CMS-listed species are experiencing unsustainable levels of human caused pressure. Obviously, this has consequences for humans, too, since all animal species play a distinctive role in maintaining biodiversity, crucial for a balanced and healthy ecosystem.

The report goes on to note that in addition to the effect of climate change, pollution and invasive species, three out of four CMS-listed migratory birds species are impacted by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and seven out of 10 by over-exploitation, including intentional taking as well as incidental capture.

Almost all of this holds true in Pakistan. For long, its wetlands have been wintering and breeding grounds for a large number of birds arriving from Siberia and Central Asian Republics. They include, according to WWF-Pakistan, a wide variety of ducks and waders, cranes, warblers, teals, pintail, mallard, geese, spoon bills, raptors, and passerines such as warblers, pipits and buntings.

But their numbers have dwindled during the recent years due to increasing levels of pollution in the water bodies hosting them. Besides, as pointed out by the WWF, all migratory birds are mercilessly hunted in this country while the cranes are captured for their beauty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan during migratory voyage.

As a result, the population of some duck species, including white-eyed pochard, pelicans, marbled teal and garganey has decreased drastically. Then there is the case of migratory turtles that come from Europe for nesting on Karachi’s shoreline, where the city authorities put light fixtures to facilitate the public, not realising that the lights attracted the hatchlings towards them rather than the sea, and ended up dying in the urban jungle. The Sindh Wildlife Department, however, is said to have taken some steps to allow these endangered turtles to hatch their eggs undisturbed.

It is about time the relevant authorities made a comprehensive assessment of the various factors adversely affecting the migratory species, and took conservation actions to protect natural habitats of migratory as well as native animals.

The people should be better informed about how much all animals matter to their own well-being. Also, those in positions of power should stop inviting their wealthy and influential foreign friends to freely hunt endangered birds.

As conversationalists say, the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. We can, therefore, always protect endangered species and preserve biodiversity by taking certain steps such as preservation of habitats, massive reduction in pollution, mass education to people, explaining to them the importance of these species and how we should care for them, and promotion of conservation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU Feb 16, 2024 12:17pm
Sadly, we celebrate migratory birds once a year to stay relevant. Pakistan witnesses unchecked poaching and killing of these birds throughout the year. Many local birds are now extinct, e.g., parrots.
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