Migratory Birds Coming from Siberia Going Elsewhere

migratory birds coming from siberia are hunted in the province photo file

Migratory birds coming from Siberia are hunted in the Punjab.

It is not just Punjab’s populace that seems to be suffering from water scarcity and pollution, as there has been a dip in the number of migratory birds from Siberia that used to fly into the province.

Every year, thousands of birds travel more than 4,000 kilometers from Siberia to various regions of Pakistan, especially Punjab, to escape the sub-zero temperatures of the Russian region. However, in the past few years a host of factors including, water scarcity, pollution, and uncontrolled hunting in wetlands has led to a decline in the winged visitors.

A survey of 11 locations of the province frequented by the migratory birds carried out by the Punjab Wildlife’s research center in Gatwala, Faisalabad, shows that an estimated 60,011 Siberian birds were recorded in the province in 2021-2022. In the survey for 2022-2023, this number has dropped by 34 percent to 39,698 birds.

The research institute’s Deputy Director, Dr Misbah Sarwar, when asked about the survey and the implications of its results, replied: “the purpose of the surveys is to estimate the accurate number of birds that visit the province and to prepare recommendations for their protection, conservation, and recreational hunting.”

When asked about the decrease in migratory birds’ population witnessed in the current survey, Dr Sarwar confirmed that the winged visitors from Serbia had declined because of factors like shortage of water in wetlands, increasing human intervention, illegal hunting, pollution, and weather changes.

In light of Dr Sarwar and the survey’s revelations, various wildlife experts were of the view that the government needed to focus on the conservation of migratory birds, reducing human intervention, and eliminating pollution. “The environmental laws need to be strictly enforced. The rapid decline in the number of migratory birds means that they will completely abandon Pakistan in the next few decades,” one expert opined.

However, Dr Wasim Ahmed Khan’s views were in stark contrast with other experts. Dr Khan, who heads a NGO which advocates for wildlife conservation, said that the survey was flawed. “It is not appropriate to rely on the number of migratory birds from a survey of a single day, at any location. Migratory birds come in flocks and at different intervals. After a long journey, they stay for a few hours or a few days to rest on the shore of a lake, and then head towards their final destination.

It is possible that on the day the survey team visited, there were no birds, but the next day, there might have been many,” Dr Khan explained. Instead, he was of the view that the record rainfall that the country had received in the preceding year was bound to attract more birds. “Due to the recent heavy rains, many lakes have formed in several areas, and the increase in water levels in existing water bodies has led to an increase in the number of birds,” said Dr Khan said.

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