The death toll of peacocks reportedly succumbing to an avian disease reached 170 Monday when 20 peafowls were confirmed dead in the Thar region of Sindh, it has been learnt.
Tharparkar’s honorary district game warden Talook Chand Valasai confirmed the death toll, saying at least 30 birds died in various parts of the desert during last couple of days.
The sudden spike in deaths of the birds during the last four weeks have sparked doubt and fear among local experts as well as natives who say this may be an outbreak of the highly contagious Newscastle disease, locally known as Ranikhet.
The locals also criticised the response of the Sindh Wildlife Department to the situation, saying officials have failed to investigate the deaths and asses the situation to prevent them.
In a response to the recurring complaints, Valasai, said the department is handicapped because of a shortage of staff, and lacks resources as well as facilities to respond to the situation in a timely fashion.
He added that these factors contribute to the failure of the department officials and workers from promptly responding to the situation, reaching remote villages and vaccinate the ailing peafowls there.
Valasai said the department has only one vehicle to cover the desert area that spreads over 22,000 square kilometres, and added that it is a huge impediment.
“Despite the crucial challenges, we have formed four teams to vaccinate the ailing peacocks and determine the cause of the deaths,” he added.
Abdul Majeed Junejo, chairman of Joru union council near Mithi, earlier told Dawn that during past couple of weeks, more than 30 peafowls have died of, what he observes is, Ranikhet.
“The neck of the birds swell up after contracting the infection, after which they eventually collapse and die,” Junejo added, saying there are plenty of birds who are ailing and are in a need of treatement.
He said that he, along with locals, have time and again requested the wildlife department to visit the area and determine what is causing the sudden deaths of the birds but to no avail.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who hails from Tharparkar district, in a press statement on Monday flayed the Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government, saying it has failed to stem the rot in the desert area and urged international organisations working on wildlife to save the dying birds in Thar.
“Thar, despite being in the headlines due to unabated deaths, be it children, animals or birds such as peacocks, has been completely been neglected by PPP in Sindh,” Vankwani added.