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Student Notes: Shahid Mahmood
Shahid Mahmood — in Asian Vulture Crisis    Share
Vulture researchers Shahid Mahmood (left)<br />and Muhammad Arshad (right) working at<br />Toawala.
Vulture researchers Shahid Mahmood (left)
and Muhammad Arshad (right) working at
Toawala.
"I took charge of studies at Toawala colony in February 2001. It is a larger site than all other study colonies. In the 2000/01 breeding season I counted a maximum of 1607 birds but in 2001/02 my maximum count was 1253. The main vegetation in this area are mango orchards. Cotton and wheat are the main crops. On the west side of Toawala colony (about 5 km) runs the river Chenab. At Toawala site food availability is high and last year, vulture mortality rate was lower than the other sites. But this year mortality rate has increased. Gout in birds is also more common this year. So still there are great numbers of vultures here to study the cause of mortality.

By wing tagging I observed that birds move to nearby colonies. Toawala is situated between Dholewala and another colony at Shorekot and Jhang. I observed one orange wing-tagged vulture in Toawala in April, 2002 that had been tagged in Dholewala colony, 100km to the west. I have also observed Gyps fulvus many times in Toawala and found a dead Gyps fulvus in June last year.

In the beginning when I took charge at Toawala and started working there, it was very hard to work in the field. Local people destroyed vulture’s nests by stealing and cutting the trees and they were suspicious of my work. But with the passage of time they came to known the importance of this work and now they are helpful to me and also tree-cutting in this area has almost stopped. Now I really enjoy my work at Toawala!!

At Toawala I conducted a pesticide survey data from the village of Sardarpur to Nawabpur village and collected valuable information on pesticides and their usage in this area which may help in diagnosing the cause of mortality and the decline in vulture populations.

I learnt a lot about vultures. I also learnt how to take measurements from vultures and how to collect tissue samples during detailed necropsy for diagnostic analyses to understand the cause of the vulture decline.

The Asian Vulture Crisis Project enabled me to learn about vultures and about different birds. Before entering this project I did not know much about vultures and other birds, but now I am learning a great deal. I am grateful to The Peregrine Fund and the Ornithological Society of Pakistan for their help to me in completing my MPhil studies at university and enabling me to work with the birds."

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