Chitral Today
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Wildlife of Chitral, range lands and mismanagement

By Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

In the past when the rulers of Chitral had the overall control of wildlife the management system was too good to believe. The main wildlife areas were under the royal house but the sub-valleys were granted as special favour by the ruler to his friends, members of his family and also many hunting grounds to tribes collectively.

This special favour was highly valued and control systems by the recipients were strict. Hunting was allowed in proper season. The Jagirdars who enjoyed this privilege appointed their own warden who performed honestly and hunted for their masters and received rewards. The hunters were encouraged, given good rifles, ammunition, ration and a pack of hounds which were fed and used in hunting.

The warden was called GOLWAL i.e. watcher of the game reserve, who kept a vigilant eye on poachers. The mafia of poaching was also in action and often were caught and lost their bulls as a fine. No appeal could be filed against. The same kind of poaching was also crashed into the royal house richer game reserves and punishments were awarded. In this way, conservation of wildlife was ensured and the valley wardens had a good control. Thus wildlife prospered and found in abundance.

After 1973, the game reserves were nationalized and a wildlife department was created at the provincial level which recruited a few watchers for a large are and the old system was taken away from the Jagirdars. The new mechanism worked but poorly.  The honest staff members worked but another dishonest group of watchers had collusion with the poachers and did more harm to the wild life instead of improving.

This corruption motivated many non-professional hunters into professional poachers in league with the dishonest watcher. The honest watchers  were threatened by the mafia and so the wild life staff was disheartened and reduced their active performance.  Thus the poachers  got bold enough and wrought havoc to the ibex and Markhor population of the game reserves of Chitral. Some poachers were caught red hand but due to weak rules and leniency they got free after payment of a few thousand Rupees. The watchers were not awarded for their efforts.

At present the game reserves have been almost left without watchers as in the distant wildlife rich valleys a single watcher cannot jeopardize his life  facing armed gang  of poachers. The number of wild life like ibex and Markhor has decreased as more sophisticated rifles have been introduced and wider destruction is being reported. One such a young watcher was more active against but the poachers linked themselves some high officials and the poor watcher was transferred to a distant valley to teach him a lesson which means that the officials are also backing the poachers and the wild life DFO has got no powers to resist.

Also there are experienced poachers who keep their rifles in the mountains and  go up as if going on a pleasure trip, hunt and then hid e the rifle and come in the wee hours of the nights. They also try to kill the endangered Snow Leopard to remove it from their path as a rival for a good size ibex.

These poachers openly speak against Snow Leopard Foundation and supporters of the conservation committees. It is an pen challenge to the writ of the government and deserves to be brought to books on the basis of their applications that lie in the offices of local police , Snow Leopard Foundation and DPO office.



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