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Fencing of Afghan border blamed for decrease in markhor population

Fencing of Afghan border blamed for decrease in markhor count

PESHAWAR: Fencing of Afghan border and freezing of funds by federal govt blamed for decrease in number of markhors in Chitral Gol National Park.

A markhor count survey conducted by the provincial wildlife department earlier last year carried shocking disclosures about the number of the national animal in Chitral Gol National Park.

The official report said about 2,000 markhors were spotted in the annual counting at the park, down from 2,850 in 2019.

The report cited fencing of the Pak-Afghan border and change in snowfall pattern as main factors for the decline in the population of markhors, the country’s national animal.

“Increased human activities and construction work along the border have restricted movement of markhors back to the national park which disturbed trans-border migration too,” said the report.

Report says annual count of markhor drops from 2,850 to 2,000

In addition, it said, December 2020 experienced less snow and rain in Chitral therefore the animals did not leave habitats at the high altitude area. Officials said whenever there was snowfall, the animal had to come down to lower altitude for foraging.

Since there was no snowfall in December last year in Chitral, therefore, the animal did not bother to leave his habitat. Besides, December is also the mating time for the animal, so both factors led to the decreased count of the animal, according to official accounts.

Background interviews with officials, conservationists and representative of the local community paint worrying situation for conservation programme, which has been lauded as a success story globally. They said that the stopping of funds to local community had a debilitating impact on conservation activities as the move removed the element of financial benefit for the community.

Hussain Ahmed, general secretary of Chitral Gol National Park Association, told Dawn that as long as the communities were getting benefits through Protected Areas Management Project (PAMP), they were interested in protecting the animal. However, stopping the cash flow also lessened the interest of community in the conservation work, he said.

“Till 2018, communities had owned the animal and the park, but after the stoppage of funds it is just a formality,” he quoted a community watcher as saying.

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