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The Sarus crane has been spotted in Pakistan after a gap of 13 years and hopes are high that this critically endangered bird species can be encouraged to make a comeback if conservation methods are correctly pursued.

This wonderful news was first broken during a recent meeting of the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan’s Scientific Committee (WWF-P) last week by a spokesman for Save Wildlife and Nature (SWAN), an organisation promoting crane conservation in Pakistan.

Of the four crane species recorded from Pakistan, the Sarus, or Siberian crane as it is also known, was considered to be extinct for many years and, according to globally renowned ornithologist, Tom Roberts, had only been recorded three or four times since 1900, although a pair was spotted in 1999.

This year’s sighting of a solitary pair in Nagarparkar is encouraging and could very well be related to the fact that there was a lull in the fighting in Afghanistan during the period when the birds migrate south from Siberia to Pakistan.

The Sarus crane, the world’s tallest flying bird is now being bred in Russia with young birds released back into the wild, and it is anticipated that some of these will migrate south to Pakistan during the migratory season. In Pakistan, however, migratory cranes are shot in large numbers with some hunters going as far as massacring them with Kalashnikovs. Crane hunting is illegal in all provinces except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Crane protection societies have been set up in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh under the SWAN Crane Conservation Programme as funded by WWF-P, with a remit to educate governmental bodies and the population at large on the importance of cranes in our ecosystem. Hopes are high that all four crane species will soon be given the respect they deserve.

– B Khan

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 3, 2012.