As many as 100 peacocks have died in the desert in Pakistan and
officials are investigating the cause. The wild peacocks were already
weakened because of the delayed arrival of the annual monsoon rains
which created a loss of safe drinking water. The birds have also been
affected by starvation and deforestation. They have become susceptible to
viral and fungal infection.
Experts, concerned by the large number of deaths, believe that this may be an outbreak of Newcastle disease. In Pakistan the disease is known as ranikhet. Birds in the wild are being vaccinated against the disease since the birds are showing the same symptoms as birds who died in 2003 from Newcastle disease. The symptoms include loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, and diarrhea. The wildlife ministry is also supplying fresh water for the peacocks.
Estimates place the peacock population in the Thar Desert at more than 30,000. The numbers have already been on the decrease due to poaching, deforestation, and ineffective conservation.