IUCN, SECMC vulture symposium reports increase in Vulture Population in Thar in last 3 years

A regional vulture symposium was organized jointly by IUCN and Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), to present key findings of the vulture conservation initiative carried out in Thar, while citing reports of increase in vulture population in the last three years.
The symposium was attended by representatives of the development sector, academic, government and conservation experts, apart from the media and private sector.

The Chief Guest on the occasion was Secretary Sindh Forest and Wildlife Department, Dr. Badar Jamil Mandro. Other dignitaries included MPA from Thar Mr. Qasim Siraj Soomro, Senator (retd.) Javed Jabbar, CEO SECMC Amir Iqbal, IUCN Country Representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, and Riaz Wagan, Chief Conservator Forests.

Keynote speaker was Dr. ZB Mirza, Pakistan’s renowned field Researcher, Conservationist, and Biodiversity Expert.
Dr. Mirza gave a detailed presentation on the findings and activities undertaken under theproject in Thar, to conserve vultures. This ranged from awareness sessions to nest protection, to artificial nests, and discouraging communities to opt for vulture-harmful painkiller drugs. He explained how the team surveyed the Thar region and identified over 100 nests in Tharparkar.
Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, IUCN Country Representative Pakistan said that the vulturepopulation in Pakistan has steeply declined over the last 20 years or so, and accelerated and joint efforts are now underway to save these large, magnificent birds, from the many threats they have been facing.
Senator (Retired) Javed Jabbar said that vultures are disappearing because of irrational useof a drug. He mentioned a horrific revelation of the survey result that only 15% of the storesare aware that the drug is dangerous for the vulture population. Mr. Jabbar also explained the
culture and ecology of Thar and how the region had evolved over time, and why it wasimportant to conserve its pristine biodiversity and environment.

CEO-SECMC, noted that they, despite being a coal company, were all for preserving and conserving nature, and were trying to contribute, amongst other areas, to biodiversityconservation in Thar as well under SECMC’s exemplary CSR. He further noted:
“SECMC launched the “Partnerships for Biodiversity Conservation in Thar” project on vulture conservation in in partnership with IUCN and Baanhn Beli. Sindh Wildlife Department has also been very instrumental in guiding the project along the way.
Today, after three years, I am pleased to learn that the Project has a number of achievements to report. The broader objective naturally has been to focus on arresting the
steep decline of vulture population in Thar.”

Mr. Javed Meher, Chief Conservator, Sindh Wildlife Department blamed that the “diclofenac sodium – a pain killer drug normally administered to livestock for rapid vanishing of the vulture’s population in the country. He said that despite a ban since 2006 on the production and use of veterinary medicines containing diclofenac, the unauthorized use of the drug has continued with impunity, posing a major threat to this remarkable species.
IUCN Country Representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said:
· Concerted efforts on local, provincial, national and regional levels have shown someresults and there are positive reports from various countries of the Region. We are encouraged of some positive results, but the Member Countries need to continue efforts for increasing the number of Vultures further.
· In Pakistan IUCN is implementing a second project for conservation of Vulture species. This venture is also an excellent example of cooperation among the Private Sector, IUCN Member organization based in Tharparkar and federal and provincial governments.
The Symposium also invited community representatives from Thar, who had been an integral part of the project. They explained their role and how they took ownership and championed the cause of vulture conservation.
Naveed Soomro, Sindh Programme Manager, also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the numerous activities undertaken in the project, such as environmental education, vulture nest protection through community support, youth groups, andcomprehensive surveys to identify hotspots of vultures in Sindh.

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