There are over thousands of bird species on this beautiful planet. We see them flying, humming, singing, and dancing everywhere: in the air, in wilderness, in and around our homes. They are important part of ecological system and help sustain life on earth in so many ways.
Birds live happily in cleaner environment. But the environment is not cleaner. Besides migrations triggered by changes in light, temperature, and food availability, birds are often forced to migrate or worst still are killed due to human activities like deforestation, pollution and extensive use of chemicals. Birds have proven sensitive to many forms of environmental change, including chemical pollution, and are sometime used by scientists as an early warning for humans. This makes them excellent subjects to study for understanding ecological processes and environmental health.
These days one major concern is the rapid loss in vulture population in the South Asia, specially India, Pakistan and Nepal. Reports are since 1960s there has been over 95 percent population decline in three vultures species — oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis), the long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus) and the slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) — across many areas of the Subcontinent.
Vultures are widely distributed birds along expenses of Pakistan. They are large, brownish birds with enormous wingspreads and a distinctive type of tipping and slanting soaring flight. Sometimes, they are seen circling high into the sky. During summer, it is common to see them soaring over the fields. The birds also settle in considerable numbers, sometimes as many as several dozen or more, on ground, in trees or on electric pylons.
Vultures use highly sharp eyesight and a very developed sense of smell to search for their food. It has always appeared puzzling that birds of prey, as vultures, could scent carcasses at such immense distances, as they are said to do. As scavengers, they consume freshly killed animals along roads and elsewhere, and thus serve as natural garbage collectors. Imagine what will happen if vultures do not eat them before rotting. Which is how the birds play a vital cultural as well as ecological role by searching the remains and clearing the dead animals in the countryside and cities. What is more, some ethnic groups, who do not bury their dead, depend on vultures for disposal of their corpses.
All three species are now classed as critically endangered. Researchers say that the medicine called diclofenac used for the livestock is killing vultures when they eat a carcass.
Though late, but the phenomenon has caught the attention of conservationists and environmentalists. United Kingdom is offering aid to save the birds. Research and vulture rehabilitation centres have opened up in India. Reports are that Punjab government is setting up a breeding farm to control the rapid decline in the population of vultures. Bahauddin Zakriya University Multan is to supervise vultures at Jallo Forest Park where they will be kept under workers trained in Dubai.
Impacts on avifauna increase with increase in environmental degradation. To conserve our natural world we must find ways to manage environments so that natural biological processes and species, including humans, can be nourished. Governments, drug companies, vets,
livestock owners and conservationists should act together now to save the vulture culture.