HYDERABAD / KARACHI: The deadly viral disease in the peacocks has reportedly fanned out of Thar to the adjoining districts as the unofficial death count crosses 100.
The reports of the fresh wave of deaths, believed to be caused by the Newcastle Disease, came from Badin, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Tando Allahyar, Shaheed Benazirabad and Hyderabad.
The residents of Muhammad Baskh Kaloi village in Naukot area of Mirpurkhas said that they found nine dead peacocks from the wild near the Mehmood Shah graveyard. “There are also many sick birds which are whirling and frothing saliva from the mouth while their feathers are falling,” Kashif Kaloi and Abdullah Kaloi said while speaking to the media.
Abdullah said that people have started to mix tablets such as Disprin and Aspro in the drinking water for the birds to cure them.
Ibrahim Khaskheli, a resident of Badin’s Massan Mohallah, says seven of his pet peacocks died during the last two weeks. “In the beginning, I thought their death was a natural one. Afterwards, I found out about the viral spreading in Thar through the media.”
According to him, the symptoms in his pet birds were similar to ones found in the Thar peacocks.
Another pet tamer in Badin, Allah Dino Mallah, had his bird died of the same disease. Four more peacocks died in Thar’s Hothiar and Dori Samejo villages. Reporters totalled the fatalities at over 110 but the wildlife activists contend the actual figure can be higher.
“Since the disease has been diagnosed as a contagious one, the wildlife and poultry development staff should carry out a vaccination drive in Thar,” says Bharumal Ambrani, wildlife activist of Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment. Ambrani told The Express Tribune that his organisation had approached the wildlife officers to train their volunteers in vaccinating the peacocks, but were refused. “We have seen epidemics in the past in Thar’s peacock but they did not spread like the one we are dealing with now.”
The Chief Conservator Saeed Akhtar Baloch did not respond when inquired about what measures will be taken to cope with the emerging situation.
As the outbreak continues unabated, so does the denial of the wildlife officers. The deputy conservator of wildlife in Thar, Taj Muhamamd Shaikh, informed the media that they could only accept a claim about the death of a peacock due to Newcastle Disease when they see a dead body. But they had not seen any new ones.
The wildlife department’s minister, Dr Daya Ram Essarani, said that the situation was not so serious. According to him, only 11 peacocks had died and 14 had fallen ill due to the Newcastle Disease, locally called Ranikhet. “It is not an alarming situation but the media has created hype,” he said. Essarani was speaking at a press conference which was held after a meeting of the wildlife officials and veterinary doctors.
It was reportedly decided in the meeting to send experts to the affected areas of Thar so that the situation of the disease could be determined.
He said that the remains of the peacocks were sent to the Poultry Research Institute, Karachi. “The findings of the report reveal that the death of the wildlife birds of Sindh is due to the outbreak of the Newcastle Disease.”
Following the reports of peacock deaths, Essarani said that he visited about seven to eight villages in Thar, but found no proof of the mentioned deaths.
“I want to clarify that no one has been able to show us the remains of dead peacocks.”
He added that his department has started vaccination for the peacocks by setting up two medical camps in Thar and one in Badin, while steps were also being taken in the Sanghar district.
“We have supplied vaccine for 30,000 peacocks which is sufficient. It is not possible for us to reach every corner of Thar, but we are trying our best.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.