'Saving the last birds' -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

‘Saving the last birds’

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: “The quiet departure of avian species indicates city’s fast-deteriorating environment. While many bird species have lost their habitats thanks to increasing pollution and the so-called development, an amazing variety of birds still exists in the rural parts of Karachi and along its beach. We must save these last sanctuaries of birds, now facing serious threat from private developers.”

This was how Mirza Naim Beg, a wildlife photographer, responded when asked about his wonderful photographic collection that he had put on display on Sunday on the premises of Mrs Haque Academy.

Titled ‘Disappearing Bird Life of Sindh’, the show featured 30 photographs taken from Karachi, Kathore, part of Gadap town, Tharparkar, Larkana, Tando Mohammad Khan and Mirpurkhas.

An avid photographer for the past three decades, Mr Beg gradually developed an interest in wildlife photography and started capturing birds through his camera three years ago.

“We are losing all our natural gifts and I thought it to be a great opportunity to record them before we lose them all,” he said, adding that it was his third show in Karachi on the avian diversity.

Mr Beg has recorded more than 275 species across the country, around 180 from Sindh alone. Over the past years, he has been a frequent visitor to the interior parts of Sindh as well as to the Margalla hills in Islamabad, Bhalwal and Kalar Kahar in Sargodha and Chakwal districts of Punjab, some places still rich in avian diversity, he says.

An important feature of his collection, however, is to record a range of beautiful birds in and around Karachi that the city seems to have lost a long time ago. His collection includes pictures of plovers, herons, sanderlings, gulls (at least four species) stilts, grey francolins, red-wattled lapwings, lesser whitethroat, shrikes (four species) rosy starlings, kestrels, steppe eagle, flamingos and painted storks, which come from Siberia in winters.

“I have recorded more than 30 species of birds, some of them, never photographed before, for instance, the yellow-wattled lapwings and the grey Francolin teetar in the Phase 8 of Defence Housing Authority (DHA), where I live for the past eight years,” he pointed out.

He regretted that the bushes where these birds had found refuge were cut off by the DHA as it carried out its development activities. His suggestion to create a bird sanctuary was paid no attention by the authorities concerned.

“Wildlife conservation is not a hi-tech science. It can be as simple as making no disturbance in their habitat that means that the trees, the thorny bushes where they live shouldn’t be destroyed. The way construction is taking place, the DHA, Phase 8 will soon lose its bird diversity and will be left with only crows and kites,” he lamented.

In developed countries, he said, societies took extraordinary measures to protect wildlife habitats. This was so because these small creatures were an essential part of our ecosystem and played a critical role in keeping it healthy.

Replying to question as to how he managed to find a variety of birds in Karachi, he said: “They are still around, though away from human population. I always say you will not see them if you are not looking for them. I work with locals, show them pictures and know where they still occur.”

According to him, a good site to watch birds is Kathore, hardly 20km from Toll Plaza, which is now under serious threat on account of massive construction by a private developer along the Superhighway.

Rampant indiscriminate hunting, he said, was another reason for decline in bird population and there was a need for action on part of wildlife authorities.

“I have twice stopped netters trying to catch birds in Phase 8. Please try and stop private developers from going into Kathore. Please come forward to save your wildlife.

“As citizens we can at least increase awareness of this loss. Keep bird feeders at home and provide water in summers,” he said when asked to give some suggestions on how to conserve bird sanctuaries.

A one-hour talk on wildlife conservation was also part of the show.