Vanishing birds would affect food security, public health: Reza Khan

Emran Hossain | Published: 00:00, Oct 25,2019 | Updated: 00:51, Oct 27,2019


Reza Khan

The disappearances of birds will make humans suffer as it would directly affect the production of foods and increasing health expenditures, said Reza Khan, former head of Dubai Zoo.

For instance, he said, the overall production of fruits in the country is set to go down because of a decline in the number of birds pollinating fruit trees.

‘Birds that love soft fleshy fruits are disappearing faster than one can expect,’ said Reza.

The fruit pollinators are declining because of habitat loss due to widespread deforestations that occurred in Bangladesh over the years, he added.

From natural forests to groves in villages, the habitats for birds are gradually disappearing. Deforestation is caused by government-initiated development projects, log thieves as well as general public since all of them cared more for generating money than protecting nature, he said.

Although man-made forests appeared in some places they lack diversity of trees and are often made of timber trees only, he said.

Many birds also play a significant role as natural insect controller by eating insects, but their disappearance would force farmers to depend more on pesticides and rodenticides to keep pest population down, he said.

‘Health cost will go up as more pest insects and worms will increase, making public life difficult,’ said Reza. 

Scanty knowledge about birds, their biology and habitats is making the situation all the more difficult for preserving birds, he argued.

According to Reza, the biology of hardly a dozen of species of birds are known in Bangladesh or, maybe, only partially known.

He said that knowledge about the rest of the 550 bird species in the country was nothing short of speculation and added that there was not even an institute to continuously study birds or other animals in Bangladesh.

Students conduct researches to attain their academic degrees but their results were usually ‘lost in the university stores.’

He said that the IUCN evaluation of birds in 2015 was based on literature and opinions of the people who had taken part in it.

‘If there are 550 species of birds in Bangladesh, we have possibly not seen more than 400 yet,’ he said.

He said that the list of 19 extirpated species was compiled by direct knowledge and as well as historical records.

Major species lost in the past 50 to 60 years are common peafowl (mayur), king vulture (raj shakun), Egyptian vulture (sada shakun), saru crane (sarosh pakhi), and white-winged duck (bhadi hans), he said.

Reza also added that quality habitats have been lost for most birds.

For instance, hole nesting birds such as woodpeckers, parakeets, barbets and hornbills, which used to be a common sight in bird landscape in the region, are becoming rarity because of rapid decrease in soft-wood trees.

He said that as a nation, Bengalis are ‘merciless in cutting down trees, clearing bushes and thickets — done sometimes for utter necessities and at others for fun or just to lead a so-called clean and civilised life.’

‘Ultimately, the only animals and plants that will survive in Bangladesh are those that will become habituated to living in and around human habitations,’ cautioned Reza.

He said that Bangladesh has no permanent grassland which used to exist on the peripheries of evergreen forests and shoals but have disappeared because of ‘anthropogenic intervention’. 

‘All developing economies have their down sides so far as environment and wildlife conservation are concerned,’ said Reza and added that up to 20 per cent of wildlife is likely to be lost because of development activities and by ‘changing crop patters, plantings tree and urban greening, we could make an attempt to save nature.’ 

The saddest part of the story of vanishing birds is that humans in most cases cannot reverse the situation to bring back the birds or save the last individuals of the most threatened ones from going extinct.

Reza said that mayur or Indian peafowl can still be found in India but it is not possible to bring them back to Bangladesh where they once roamed everywhere.

‘Whatever you do, they will not find food in nature and venture into human habitations where they will be killed,’ he said.

Similarly, there is not enough water in the Padma and Jamuna to recreate the environment required for bringing back marsh crocodiles, he said.

‘All governments of the world like development as their tenure is very short. During that short period, they like to make money, fame or rule the country smoothly. So, whatever gives quick money, governments are going to adopt. In this affair, all countries and their governments are equal,’ said Reza Khan.

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