Extreme weather in Russia forces many precious species of birds to leave their homes in search of moderate weather which they find in India, but on their way they make stopovers at different lakes and water basin of Pakistan as well including Nowshera, Tanda Dam (Kohat), Swat, Chitral, Punjab, Haleji, Keenjaar and Lungsee lakes.
It is estimated that about one million birds were used to migrate from Siberia every year which mainly include Water Fowl, Hobara Bustard, Cranes, Teals, Pintail, Mallard, Geeze, Spoon Bills, Waders, Palicons and Gadwall through Indus Flyway also known as International Migratory Bird Route Number 4, covering a migration distance of around 4500 kilometers .
However, Environmentalists are observing an alarming decrease in number of migratory birds visiting Pakistan every year.
“It is quite alarming that birds, migratory as well as native, are disappearing,” said Ghulam Rasool Khatri, Field Coordinator WWF (World Wide Fund) for Nature.
Ghulam Rasool who was engaged in conservation of Keenjar Lake, Pakistan’s largest fresh water reservoir, said the number of migratory birds making stopover at lake had reduced from 205,000 to 13706.
In 1987-88, about 65 species of waterfowl were recorded at Keenjar Lake. However, during another census held in 2010, it was revealed that a large number of waterfowl have avoided visiting the lake and number of birds had also reduced drastically.
Breeding birds at Keenjar Lake include Night-heron, Cotton teal, Pheasant tailed jacana, Purple Moorhen, besides some passerines. The Cotton teal had disappeared in the recent years and was not seen at the lake for few years, Ghulam Rasool informed.
Direct human activities including land reclamation and deforestation, as well as indirect human influences, such as climate change, damaging of some sites through habitat fragmentation and degradation are some of the reasons of reduction in migratory birds,? said an official of Wildlife Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He said the provincial government was taking steps to make journey of migratory birds safe by controlling hunting of birds under its policy titled as Management of Waterfowls along river Kabul and Indus in KP.
The migratory birds start their journey from Siberia in September/October, and begin returning to their native towns by the end of March or start of April every year.
Some Bird and environmental experts have already concluded that these birds have ecological benefits as they prey on insects and weeds thus contributing towards the betterment of agriculture.
Director Zoological Sciences Division, Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH), Dr Muhammad Rafique said there were a total of 7 identified flyways in the world which include from Northern Europe to Scandinavian countries, Central Europe to Mediterranean Sea, Western Siberia to Red Sea, Green Route from Siberia to Pakistan, GangaFlyway from Eastern Siberia to India, Manchuria to Korea and Chakotaka to California.
Pakistan’s wetlands were no exception to hosting enormous biodiversity of migratory birds and some indigenous fauna. Each year, hundreds of thousands of birds including cranes, geese, ducks, swans and waders migrate between their breeding grounds in the north and wintering grounds in the south, he added.
Rafique said the Wildlife department had taken a number of measures to curtail hunting of migratory birds.
“Earlier, before 1970 there was no rule for protection of migratory birds. However, after Ramsar convention in Iran and Bonn Convention in Germany, laws to protect migratory birds were enacted?, he mentioned.
He said birds whose reproduction was fast like ducks and water fowls were coming in same number. However, sometimes due to change in weather and especially due to drought, the birds change their route.