The death toll from the deadly New Castle disease continues to increase as over five dozen peacocks have been reported dead since the first week of June.
At least five peacocks died between Sunday and Monday according to the villagers. This, however, could not be confirmed by the wildlife department as they sent their officials to the villages to verify the cause of death.
Dr Jhaman Das of the Central Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory said that the disease affects the birds’ nervous system due to deficiency of vitamins and minerals. As a result, he said, the peacocks feel dizzy and whirl to their death. “Acute shortage of water, sweltering desert heat and low yield of millet and maize are the reasons for the nutritional deficiency.”
Of the five deaths in the last two days, two reportedly died in Garhri village in Diplo Tehsil. A resident, Leemo Meghwadh, claimed that the deaths occurred despite immunisation of the birds. “After a few deaths in our village in early June, the wildlife department gave us medicines for peacocks,” he said. “Perhaps the ones that died today were not administered the medicine.”
The remaining two deaths were reported from Mevo Rind village in Chachro tehsil.
A total of 300 peacocks were reported dead in a similar outbreak in 2012 but the figure was contested by the wildlife department.
Over 1,400 villages in Thar, constituting nearly 60 per cent of the district, are said to have peacock population. Their population, according to the wildlife department, is estimated to be around 80,000. The medicine is provided to the peacocks via drinking water. There is, however, no mechanism to identify and register the birds that have been immunised.
Dr Saeed Akhtar Baloch, a wildlife conservator, told a meeting in Thar last week that over 22,000 doses were distributed among villagers after the viral outbreak in June besides confirming 23 deaths up till July 10.
The matter is also being heard in the Sindh High Court after a petition was filed at the Hyderabad circuit bench in mid-June. The petition accused that the peacock deaths were a result of criminal negligence of the wildlife and poultry department.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2013.