EP #4 OF #WILDWOMENINTERVIEWS with Janaki Lenin
Farah Ishtiaq’s work on avian malaria began in Hawaii where more than 90% of the native birds had been decimated by the disease. The indigenous species had evolved on these remote islands without immunity. She says diseases such as avian malaria can pose conservation challenges.
In India, Farah studies how avian malaria travels onboard migratory birds from the plains to the Himalaya. While tropical species survive the disease, what are the implications for migratory birds that have to crest the high mountains at elevations with low oxygen to reach their summer breeding grounds?
Avian malaria is implicated in another scenario. A recent study blamed it for the decline of house sparrow populations in the suburbs of London. Many were perplexed when Indian cities emptied of house sparrows. Was it the lack of food or suitable nesting spots? We don’t know if the disease is a cause. This highlights why surveillance is important, says Farah.
Feeding birds, and a range of other wild species, is a cultural practice, and in recent years, many have taken to it. Experts are divided on the issue. What does Farah think of it, especially since birds gathering around a feeder can spread disease?
As a woman and a mother of a young child, Farah faced her share of obstacles, from objections from her family to policies that exclude women from academic posts.
Have a listen.
You can find Farah Ishtiaq on twitter @fishtiaq
Watch Episode 1 of #WildWomenInterviews with Janaki Lenin here
Watch Episode 2 of #WildWomenInterviews with Janaki Lenin here
Watch Episode 3 of #WildWomenInterviews with Janaki Lenin here