KARACHI - Sindh Minister for Wildlife Dr Daya Ram Essarani on Monday claimed that only 11 peacocks died in Thar due to the Newcastle viral disease that spread from chickens and other animals.Rejecting the media reports that 150 peacocks had so far been killed in Thar, the minister said these claims had no proof in their support. He contended that his department was working for the protection of peacocks in the province. Addressing a news conference after holding a meeting with officials of the Wildlife Department and veterinarians regarding the precautionary measures, Daya Ram said that dead peacocks were sent to the Poultry Research Institute that confirmed that the Newcastle viral disease took its toll on their health. “After verifications and field visits, officials of the department have confirmed that only 11 peacocks have died, 14 have been struck down with the virus since July 18,” the minister told the journalists, insinuating that the media hyped the matter and exaggerated the death toll. To a query, the minister said that the Newcastle viral disease, which usually occurred in chickens, buffaloes and other animals, spread among peacocks. He added that he did not have any information whether the viral disease could spread to other areas of the province. Daya Ram further said his department had set up two medical camps in Thar area, where vaccination was being given to sick peacocks. “Because the Wildlife Department has no doctors, services of veterinarians of the Animal Husbandry Department have been sought for the treatment of ailing wild birds.” He also said that these teams had with them medicine to treat over 30,000 peacocks. He, however, asserted that it was not possible for them to reach every peacock because of their being scattered in different areas of Thar. To a question, the minister said he himself travelled about 200 kilometers and visited eight villages in Thar, but found no veracity in media reports of such a large number of peacock deaths. “Villagers tell that many peacocks died, but neither they had any proof nor the remains of any dead bird.” Daya Ram, however, said that death of even a single peacock was a loss to wildlife in the province, adding that the department was taking preventive measures to stem the viral disease. About reports that the disease was fast spreading in other districts, the minister said that his department had also set up a camp in Badin, while similar steps were being taken in Sanghar district.“The department is launching a media campaign for awareness of people, requesting them to inform wildlife officials in case they find any ailing or dead peacock. A wildlife team would leave for Thar to take stock of the situation and prepare a detailed report.” He also invited mediamen to accompany the team.To a question, the minister said that no scientific survey was carried out to count the population of peacocks, but the estimated number of peacocks in Thar was around 70,000 based on informal surveys.