WWF-Pakistan activities on International Vulture Awareness Day

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LAHORE: WWF-Pakistan organised an event to mark International Vulture Awareness Day 2016 in collaboration with the Lahore Zoo . Over the years the organisation has educated the general public regarding vulture conservation and the ecological importance of the species within the region.

Speaking on the occasion, Shafqat Ali , Lahore Zoo Director, highlighted the importance of the biodiversity of Pakistan and the ecological role of vultures as nature’s recyclers. The director also emphasised the importance of such events in raising awareness to help organisations like WWF-Pakistan , which are working tirelessly for the endangered species to make a comeback. He also appreciated the conservation efforts made by WWF-Pakistan to save the critically endangered white-backed (Gyps bengalensis) and long-billed (Gyps Indicus) vultures.

A documentary titled “Missing Vultures” was also screened to sensitise the public regarding the plight of vultures in Pakistan and efforts in place for their conservation, followed by interactive quiz programmes and a solid waste clean-up activity. Participants of the events, which included visitors to the zoo, students and media, were taught why vultures play an important role in cleaning the ecosystem and the types of vulture species in Pakistan through species identification cards. At the end of the event vulture saviour certificates and badges were distributed amongst children.

The event is part of activities undertaken by vulture conservationists around the world in the first week of September each year. International Vulture Awareness Day was initiated by the Birds of Prey Programme, South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust, England. The initiative later expanded to become an international event which highlights the conservation of vultures to a wider audience as well as the important work regarding its conservation carried out around the world.

Hammad Naqi Khan , Director General, WWF-Pakistan , in his message on International Vulture Awareness Day said, “Vulture conservation is at the heart of WWF-Pakistan’s conservation activities. This year we successfully bred two white-backed vulture chicks in our Vulture Conservation Centre in Change Manga Lahore and believe this to be a significant achievement in bringing this critically endangered species back from the verge of extinction.” Hammad Naqi Khan was of the opinion that in the past vultures were derided as vile creatures and people cared little for their plight.

“Without vultures, rotten carcasses became a breeding ground for terrible diseases. We have recently discovered how important their role is to our well-being and realise how much we need to revive their population. They are vital for a healthy ecosystem.”

Other events organised in accordance with the day were held at the Vulture Conservation Centre (VCC) in Changa Manga and in the Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) in Nagar Parkar, Sindh. WWF-Pakistan’s in situ conservation work in the VSZ continues alongside the captive breeding programme. The VSZ was established in 2012, in Nagar Parkar, Sindh, and covers an area of 100 km. It hosts the last remaining wild population of critically endangered white-backed and long-billed vultures.

WWF-Pakistan is actively involved in the protection of the Gyps vulture population in Pakistan for more than a decade, both through in situ and ex situ conservation. The Gyps Vulture Restoration Facility in Changa Manga Forest Reserve is the only ex situ conservation initiative in Pakistan, which is dedicated to retaining and increasing the current vulture population, since 2005.

The population of the critically endangered Oriental white-backed vulture, Gyps bengalensis, and long-billed vulture Gyps indicus has been on a decline and more than 90 per cent of its historic geographic range in Pakistan, India and Nepal has been lost since the early 1990s. This drastic fall is attributed to the use of Diclofenac Sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), in livestock. Other harmful NSAIDs include Ketoprofen, Aceclofenac, and Flunixin.

About WWF–Pakistan: World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan was formed in 1970 to address the growing environmental and conservation issues in Pakistan that not only affected the flora and fauna, but were also affecting the human population. WWF–Pakistan is a non-profit organisation, working preserve, conserve and save our environment and natural resources. Today, WWF-Pakistan works through 30 offices with a team of approximately 250 dedicated staff members. With its head office in Lahore, regional offices in Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad and Quetta, it has project offices wherever there is need and the potential to make a difference.

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