Chitral's wood pigeons depleting fast

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CHITRAL, June 30: Common wood pigeon is on fast depletion in Chitral which is being attributed to the disturbance of its ecology by over-harvesting the chalghuza pine in the recent years due to its high price in the market.

Altaf Ali, a biodiversity specialist associated with a non-governmental organization, said that the large species of dove, the wood pigeon locally called Agagh, had a high population density in the region of Hindukush belt.
He said that the bird mainly migrates from the Central Asian regions bordering Chitral in the season when the chulghuza pines are ripen which is known as its favourite food. Mr. Ali was of the view that the demand for chalghuza in the market at high rate over the years had indirectly led to the depletion of its population.
“It was the bird (wood pigeon) which indicated the maturing of chalghuza to the local people as the grains of chalghuza leave the cone only when ripened to its full and the bird picked them from the cone,” he said and added that the harvesters now used unnatural and unscientific  methods.
He said that they do not wait the ripening of the grain but chopped down the cones and burnt in ditches to separate the grains from it and in the process it destroys the twigs of the trees and it takes almost four to six years for a tree to recuperate. He said that wild walnut is another favourite food of the wood pigeon which is also harvested before time denying the bird its food. The price of walnut has also jumped to a high level during the past many years and the farmers harvested it well before it is ripened for selling to the traders who thronged the valleys for purchasing the commodity.
Mr. Ali said that the illegal and ruthless hunting of the bird is another cause for its depletion when it flies to the villages in search of walnut trees.
Mr. Ali, however, said that in the Chitral Gol National Park the species can be seen in a limited number where some restraint was imposed by the wildlife department on the harvesting of chalghuza pine nuts and its hunting.
The total exhaustion of the bird will divest Chitral of one of the most beautiful birds, he said and suggested that the environment department should take steps to rehabilitate its ecology and put a ban on its hunting.–Zahiruddin
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