Wildlife Authorities Mute Spectators To Unconstrained Hunting
Srinagar, Mar 22: Unabated poaching of migratory birds by professional hunters in collusion with some officials was going on unabated in various wetlands of the Kashmir, highly placed sources said.Voicing concern over the reckless hunting of the migratory birds, wildlife experts have rue that it could have serious ramifications on the inflow of the birds in coming years and subsequently affect the Valley’s eco-system. Owing to its location at the western extremity of Himalayas, Wullar and its associated satellite wetlands including Hokersar, Shallabugh and Haigam have been important flyways and staging ground for migratory birds including shorebirds, gadwall, cranes, ducks, geese, pintails which migrate to the Valley to ward off the extreme cold in their summer homes in Siberia and Central Asia.Official sources told Greater Kashmir that poaching was going on in Wullar, Hokersar and its adjoining wetlands without any interference. “The poachers stay in the wetlands and shoot and kill 300-400 birds per day on an average. The birds particularly grey lag goose has huge demand and is sold at exorbitant rates in market. The poachers have placed snarls across the Hokersar and Wullar to catch the birds,” they said.Experts said due to massive deterioration of other wetlands, Hokersar has emerged as a wetland with high-density waterfowl population. “As the birds are present in large numbers in Hokersar, it is easy for the poachers to kill them in Hokersar. With the increase in temperature the birds have started to gradually move to their native places, the poachers have intensified their activity to kill maximum number of the winged visitors,” they said.Wildlife experts said due to increased poaching and deterioration of the wetlands, many species of birds including bar-headed geese and Siberian Crane have stopped to visit the Valley wetlands. The wetland within Jhelum including Wullar used to receive seven out of 53 globally threatened water birds and wetland birds. None of these species have been observed arriving in the Valley for the past a few years.“Due to increased human interference in Valley wetlands, the migratory birds are moving to wetlands in other countries. The unabated poaching of birds could have serious ramification on inflow of migratory birds in coming years and subsequently affect the Valley’s eco-system. Government needs to set up a special force and give stringent punishment to poachers to check hunting, “said Abdul Rashid Wani, a prominent wildlife expert.The Wildlife Warden Wetlands, GM Lone said the department has put the anti-poaching measures in place. “We have managed to control 90 percent of poaching in the wetlands,” he said. However he maintained that the department was understaffed. “I have only nine guards for monitoring an area of 13 sq kms. We will be utilizing services of more men to make full-proof measures against poaching,” he added.Pertinently with the eruption of militancy, hunting of birds and wildlife animals was banned in early 90s in the Valley. The legalized hunters had to deposit their guns in the respective police stations. However, the tirade against the winged visitors continued due to official patronage.Incidentally in 1997, the former Indian Cricketer Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and his better half actress Sharmila Tagore had reportedly shot some 100 migratory birds in Kashmir’s Hokersar wetland. The duo was on a visit to Kashmir on invitation of then chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah. Though the move had evoked severe criticism, the duo had managed to get away using political clout, sources said.