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Fencing of Afghan border blamed for decrease in markhor population

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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  1. Sohail Ahmad says

    Fencing of border resulted decrease of Markhore population seems interesting justification to carpet the issue for good. Poaching and probably disease will be the cause but wildlife department remained silent till decrease of 800 Markhore. In order to fix the issue there should be independent and comprehensive inquiry into the matter and secondly number of watchers should be increased in the area because poaching is taking place in all the valleys of Chitral and Watchers are not taking interest to protect Markhore and other wildlife. In this season Ram Chakwor and other endangerd wild species are in the hit list of poachers. Watcher do not bother to visit high altitude to control poaching. Wildlife department is very inactive and dormant department and watchers are taking no interest to protect wildlife in Chitral gole and other areas of Chitral. Number of watchers should be increased in the department and each watcher duty should be monitored by GPS devices in order to know whether the watchers are going to his duty area or otherwise.

  2. Shah Karez says

    One feels fishy about the intent of the explanations. Blaming the three factors only such as less snow fall, fencing activity in the borderline and freezing of funds, does not satisfy a curious stakeholder. The drastic decline (over 800 heads) must have occured over a period of time and not within one year. What action has been taken by the concerned department against the culprit who shot the animal and reportedly fled from the scene in Tushi roadside in the day light just a few months back. There must be some serious inquiry into the matter. The local community including the community based watchers have interesting stories to tell that indicate the routes to the facts.

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