Migratory birds flock to Pakistan as lockdown keeps poachers at bay

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KARACHI (Reuters) – Migratory birds have flocked to the wetlands of Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh in greater numbers this year, and officials and observers link the increase to coronavirus lockdown measures that have kept hunters and bird catchers away.

Pakistan, which has recorded over 185,000 cases and 3,696 deaths related to the virus, lifted a month-long country-wide lockdown last month.

A survey conducted this year observed 741,042 migratory birds in Sindh province – a big jump from the 248,105 birds counted in 2019, said Sindh Wildlife Department’s provincial conservator, Javed Ahmed Mahar.

Each year, approximately 40 percent of Sindh’s wetlands are surveyed to gain insight into the migratory patterns and numbers of birds.

Migratory birds, among them pelicans, mallards, cranes and waders, stop in Pakistan on their way to and from Siberia.

Veteran Pakistani wildlife photographer Ahmer Ali Rizvi said coronavirus measures had helped the birds to settle in.

“The birds have stayed longer this year, maybe due to meagre disturbances by humans due to the lockdown everywhere,” he said.

Mahar said that Sindh authorities had not recorded any wildlife-related crimes such as trapping, hunting or illegal trading in the province since the lockdown was imposed.

Hunting has been a problem in the area, threatening several rare species, including the houbara bustard.

“The illegal trade in the domestic markets is no more,” he said.

There are more than 33 wildlife sanctuaries and one national park in Sindh, which is home to more than 300 bird species.

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