Like other big cities of the world, Lahore is gradually losing the colourful, small birds such as nightingales, doves, and kingfishers, which are now being replaced with tough species such as kites, crows, and pigeons.
The disappearance of the birds from the city trees has created a demand for indoor birds, mostly imported from other regions. These include different types of ducks, parrots, sparrows and cranes.
Interestingly, other than the birds, you can also purchase a lion cub or any ‘prohibited’ animal from underground markets in the city. But that is another story.
Environmental experts say that exotic birds rely on fruit trees whereas in Lahore most of the said trees have fallen victim to the ongoing development projects. Another reason for the disappearance of fruit trees is the growing trend of commercialisation and urbanisation in which big homes with lawns full of trees are now being bifurcated into smaller units.
All species of birds play a crucial role in maintaining the eco-system and environment. Any disturbance can prove to be harmful. But in Lahore, the business of imported bird species is thriving and a large number of people have started indoor breeding of birds. especially parrots and sparrows.
Wildlife department officials say the resident birds of Lahore include grey hornbill, yellow-footed green pigeon, parakeet, bulbuls, doves, spotted owlets, babblers, flycatchers, mynas, woodpeckers, crows, kites, ashy prinia, redstarts, warblers, red wattled lapwing, kingfishers, house crows, and the oriental white eye. A majority of these species are reported to have migrated to other areas and one can find many of them in the outskirts of the city.
On the other hand, exotic bird markets in Lahore are expanding; you can find bird shops in almost every area. Though, the main markets include Tollington Market, LOS Road, Dharampura, and Township, from where the people can purchase all kinds of parrots.
Besides, a parallel market operates on the internet and social media, and the people are offered all kinds of exotic birds that are delivered at their doorstep.
Naseemur Rehman, a senior official of Punjab Environment Protection Department, is of the view that kites, crows and pigeons are tougher birds and can survive easily in a metropolitan city like Lahore. He laments the fact that “big buildings have replaced big trees which used to house hundreds of birds.”
Sumera Inam, a vet scientist, gives another reason for the disappearance of small and exotic birds from Lahore: “Crows and kites are the natural enemies and eat the birds or their eggs. This is why most small birds have left the city.
“Replacement of indigenous birds with imported indoor birds is a dangerous trend,” she states. “When some of the imported species mixes with the resident communities, the result is cross-breeding.”
Shahid Alam, a roadside vendor of birds, says breeding of small birds has become a profitable industry, “If the government wants to protect the local species it should protect the trees first. More fruit trees should be grown in the city to bring back the local birds.”
Naseemur Rehman adds that the department has already launched the drive to plant fruit trees along the motorway. This will yield positive results on the environment.