Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Open season in Punjab

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Two species of partridge, grey (Francolinus pondicerianus) and see-see (Ammoperdix griseogularis), are residents of the hill ranges of northern Punjab where their call was once a familiar sound. Poor enforcement of the law took its toll on the numbers of these popular game birds and as recently as 2005 conservationists could only rarely come across them in the wild. The alarming reduction in their numbers was attributable to licensed as well as illegal hunters who exterminated these birds in connivance with corrupt officials of the wildlife department. Recognising the threat to the partridges the Punjab government instituted a ban on their hunting in 2008. The result, as noted by ordinary people who share the same range with the partridges, was a marked increase in their numbers.

Indeed, in April 2013, this writer saw frequent groups of grey partridges feeding fearlessly by the side of the less frequented roads of the Soon Valley.

But good things do not last forever. A notification issued by the Department of Forests, Wildlife and Fisheries permitted licensed hunting of partridges every Sunday from Dec 15, 2013 to Feb 15, 2014 in 27 sub-divisions of Punjab. One among these was Khushab sub-division of which the picturesque Soon Valley is a part.

As day dawned on Dec 15, there descended upon the idyllic glens of Soon men in four-wheel-drive vehicles to ride roughshod over range and farmland in pursuit of game birds. Though the licence permitted a bag of only six grey partridges and five see-see, the hunters, mostly well-connected, blatantly exceeded the bag limit.

Locals who had become accustomed to the peace and quiet of the past five years were aghast as they watched the expensive vehicles ruin their patches of wheat. Inevitably, quarrels broke out between local farmers and visiting hunters, especially when it was seen that hunters were openly exceeding their bag by the dozens.

The excesses of the hunters aside, the din of firearms terrified livestock which had grown accustomed to the quiet of over five years as a result of a strict ban on hunting. Arif Haral of Ahmedabad village says that his milch cows broke tether and fled. He was fortunate enough to round up two quickly. But the third was found three days later in a village some 10 kilometres away. He reports that he was one among dozens of livestock owners who faced similar problems.

As the second Sunday of the hunting season ended, Haral had an audience with Asif Bha Awan, the provincial Minister for Forests, Wildlife and Fisheries, to request an immediate moratorium on hunting. According to Haral, the minister expressed his powerlessness in reconstituting the ban.

He also points out that in 2011 the season was declared open but a simple petition to the DCO at Khushab led to the ban being re-enacted after just one Sunday of shooting.

Asif Haral says that two Sundays of chasing after spooked cattle and blocking mindless drivers from entering the fields has frayed the nerves of local livestock and land owners. He fears it is only a matter of time before things turn ugly.

Dr Farooq Awan, a native of Naushehra town in Soon Valley working for the agriculture department, estimates that no fewer than 100 hunting parties invaded the valley on the first two Sundays. He concurs with Arif Haral that bags exceeded the permitted limit.


According to him, although there is a clear danger of things turning ugly, the more alarming aspect is that in eight weeks, the bird life of Soon Valley will be all but exterminated.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:30 AM,

2 Comments:

At January 28, 2016 at 12:35 PM, Blogger AHMED BAJWA said...

UNFORTUNATELY COUNTRY'S HELM OF AFFAIRS ARE IN THE HANDS OF THOSE WHO HAVE NO PRIORITY EXCEPT FOR THEIR OWN WELL-BEING. THEY HAVE NO AWARENESS THAT CO-EXISTENCE OF MAN WITH FLORA AND FAUNA GUARANTEES THE SURVIVAL OF MANKIND. THE TERM OF ECOLOGICAL BALANCE IS EVEN NOT HEARD BY THEIR EARS.

 
At January 29, 2016 at 3:16 AM, Blogger Ali Gohar said...

What a sad state of affairs. Greed is a a part of our collective psyche which manifests itself in every facet of our life. Bagging more than permitted number of birds is nothing but sheer predatory rapaciousness on the part of those four-wheel-drive vehicle owners.

 

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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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