Namaqua dove recorded for the first time from Pakistan
Karachi, A WWF-Pakistan trained fishermen Ikramuddin navigating a tuna gillnet fishing boat captured an unusual bird in the near shore waters off Paradise Point, Karachi on Friday, 14 October 2016. He asked one of the crew member to capture carefully this long-tailed bird which was sitting on mast of the vessel. The bird was later on photographed and placed in a bag specially made for keeping birds mainly quails which commonly take shelter on fishing boats. The area where this bird took shelter is about 3 km from the rocky outcrops between Cape Monz and Paradise Point, Karachi. This bird was identified as Namaqua dove (Oena capensis) which is one of the smaller terrestrial dove species, never reported from Pakistan.
The Namaqua dove is found mainly in the Sub-Saharan Africa (between Morocco and Egypt) extending its distribution to Arabian Peninsula, southern Israel, Jordan and as far north as Cyprus and Turkey. It is also reported from Iran, Oman Kenya and Madagascar. Present report from Pakistan extends the distribution range of the species although it may be a straggler but its presence in the near shore area and Acacia laden and thorny fields between Cape Monz and Paradise Point is similar to its natural habitat in Asia and Africa.
No attempt was made to feed the bird which was found to be very active. It was not exhausted unlike many birds which take shelter on fishing boats in offshore waters. The specimen was a male which is evident from very long and graduated tail and conspicuous black face, chin, throat and front of the breast. The bird was released when the fishing boat approached Karachi Port. It flew towards Manora Fort. No photography of release was made because it is banned within Karachi Port.
According to Umair Shahid, Northern Indian Ocean Coordinator, the report of Namaqua dove in Pakistan is very interesting as its distributional range has increased substantially. Although avian fauna of Pakistan is well studied but this species was never reported from Balochistan or any other parts of Pakistan although the species is known to distributed in immediate vicinity of Pakistan i.e. Oman and Iran.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan lauded the effort of fishermen who in addition of being involved in their livelihood activity are now aware of the biodiversity and report occurrence of any unique animal including birds, fishes, turtle and marine mammals. They have already reported occurrence a number of bird species from offshore waters of Pakistan including resident and migratory seabirds as well as stragglers who take shelter on fishing boats.
Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes, WWF-Pakistan pointed out that WWF-Pakistan under ‘Area Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ)’ project funded by FAO/GEF/Common Oceans has trained a total of 40 observers who are placed on tuna fishing boats which help in collecting important information about fisheries in the offshore waters. In addition, training has been provided to more than 100 fishermen to release endangered, protected and threatened marine animals. These fishermen painstakingly have released important species of turtles, sea snakes, sunfishes, mobulids, marine birds, dolphins and even whales. Present addition of Namaqua dove which is a new record of bird from Pakistan and its release indicates the commitment of fishermen and proof of awareness created by WWF-Pakistan about biodiversity and its conservation.
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