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Markhor population dwindling in Chitral

CHITRAL:

Nearly two-thirds of markhor population has disappeared in the Chitral Gol National Park in the past three years without inviting much attention from Wildlife Department of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
An official of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department in Chitral told The Express Tribune that the population of the precious animal reached an all-time high at 2,868 in 2019 after which under the PTI government the local watchers’ and staffers salaries were stopped and as a result there has been a dramatic decline in the population of the coveted animal most probably due to poaching with the help of Wildlife staff and local communities.
“The Wildlife Department claims that the population has dropped to 2,000 animals but there is no scientific survey to determine the number of markhor,” he said, adding that probably around a thousand had survived in the face of intense illegal and unchecked hunting.
Local communities claim that there is no ‘mysterious disease’ involved because they have not seen any dead body of markhor indicating that poaching is the only possible reason.
Government has already introduced a trophy hunting program in its quest to involve the local communities in the conservation process but it appears to be a complete failure. Around 80 per cent of the money generated from the trophy hunting project is provided to the local community which is much publicized in the media.
On Thursday a local politician Abdul Akbar Chitrali held a press conference at Chitral Press Club in which he claimed that the markhor population has actually dropped to less than 800 animals and they were on the verge of complete extinction.
He said that the Chief Conservator Wildlife and DFO Wildlife were responsible for the decline in the number of the precious animal which is a great loss of the district. He was accompanied by the chairman of Chitral Gol Community Development and Conservation and Parks Association and other members.
“This park is famous around the world for its population of markhor, chakur partridge and other flora and fauna and it has been declared a national park under Protected Area Management Project (PAMP),” he said, adding that around 23 watchers were recruited for the protection of this protected forest along with other staff but in 2016 the department stopped the salaries of the watchers and staffers and as a result the poachers have almost eliminated the entire population of this highly sought after animal.
“The responsibility should be fixed and Chief Conservators since 2016 should be made an example for others because due to their negligence the population has dropped to less than 800 animals. The department has issued wrong figures of 2,000 animals to cover the wholesale destruction of the animal in its native habitat,” he said, adding that funds should be released by the government for Parks Association and an independent survey should be conducted to ascertain the real numbers of markhor in the protected forests.
He blamed that due to the negligence of Chief Conservator, a beautiful park was deteriorating in condition with each passing day.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2021.

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