Thursday, 25 April 2013

Threat to species highlighted

Friday, April 19, 2013 

Karachi 

It is just a chance confluence of art and environmentalism. 

Talking about his entry into the realm of ecology, the noted and globally acknowledged artist, Anjum Ayaz, recounted how he was really heartbroken when on a recent visit to Thar, he saw peacocks dying of some disease or the other. He says that immediately his mind was deluged with flashbacks of peacock dances, with tails fanned out and rhythmic steps, an expression of the bird’s ecstasy on savouring the rain, casting nature in all its glory. He says it was this gloomy comparison of the past decades with the present that compelled him to take on environmentalism as his calling. 

He was addressing environment enthusiasts and the media at the Alliance Francaise Thursday evening at the inauguration of the project, “Noah’s Ark: the Rehabitat”, the term Rehabitat being a hybrid between Rehabilitation and Habitat, held under the joint aegis of Canopy, an NGO committed to environmental conservation, and the Alliance Francaise. 

He said that for this purpose, he and Canopy were collaborating to build a wooden boat around 70 feet long, which would be put by the seaside and would house stuffed animals and models of endangered species, to acquaint schoolchildren and the public with the environmental degradation that is going on all around them and the way species of animals are disappearing so rapidly owing to the ravages of commercialism and “development”. 

“There has been a 30-35 percent reduction in the number of migratory birds,” Ayaz said. 

Khalid Hassan Khan, Project Director, Canopy, informed the participants that 34 species of mammals and 105 species of birds had become extinct since 1900. Annually, he said, we were losing one species. 

“We are witnessing the sixth major extinction of species in history,” he said and cited the case of the Golden Toad which, he said, had not been sighted after 1898. Rhinoceroses, which he said were native to the Savannah grasslands in Africa, had been reduced to 30 percent of their original number. 

Among the other endangered species on a global scale that were mentioned were the polar bear and the tiger. The tiger was termed an “animal under stress”. 

All the speakers said conservation of animals was absolutely imperative to the maintenance of balance in the forces of nature, which steered the planet on an even keel. “Animals are the crowning glory of nature and creation and we must endeavour to preserve them,” Ayaz said. 

Khan said 2005 and 2010 were the warmest years recorded and these coincided with havoc-wreaking flash floods in Pakistan’s Sindh province, Australia, Europe and North America. 

He also projected a slide showing a shotgun-flaunting mustachioed feudal of Sindh, a member of an influential political party, “proudly” kneeling beside the carcasses of two Markhor goats he had shot, utterly oblivious to the death of a valuable species, a gift of nature, that his callous activity was generating. Markhor, an endangered species, is native to the high altitude areas of Pakistan. 

The slide presentation and talks were followed by an exhibition of paintings of endangered species by Anjum Ayaz, alongside stuffed endangered species. 


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