18:55Thursday 17 December 2015
Climate change and haphazard urban development has been blamed for the dramatic reduction in birds arriving this year in Kashmir’s globally important migration of birds arriving from as far as northern Europe and Japan.
Wildlife experts said they have never seen so few birds – and so few species – feeding and breeding around the wetlands nestled between the region’s mountain peaks and plateaus.
Colourful birds like the whooper swan, stiff-tailed duck and cotton teal have not been seen in the area in recent years. While there has been little scientific study to quantify the falling numbers, former regional wildlife warden Mohammed Shafi Bacha says he counts only 18 species visiting today out of 28 that came three decades ago.
Scientists routinely reject the state’s official count of birds as unreliable, but even those numbers show a downward trend: During the winter of 2009-10, authorities said more than one million birds visited Kashmir’s wetlands. Last year, they counted just over half that number.
“The bird numbers have been fluctuating over the years, but now there is a steady decline,” Mr Bacha said. He called for an “urgent and massive effort to revive these wetland reserves for protecting the birds.”