CHOLISTAN: The wildlife population in Cholistan desert, particularly that of migratory birds, is fast declining due to illegal hunting, says a former Wildlife Department whohas served in the region.
According to Wildlife Department’s surveys, the number of chinkara gazelles’ have fallen to less than 1,000 in 2010. The figure in 2007 was more than 2,000 and in 2004 more than 3,000.
The number of houbara bustards, that visit Cholistan from November till January, has fallen from 2001’s figure of 4,746 to a few dozens.
The former wildlife official said that illegal hunting was the prime cause of the decline in the chinkara gazelle’s population. He said people supported by influential political families hunt these animal without permits and that the Wildlife Department has been unable to take action against them. The official blamed the administration of Shaikh Zayed Palace for the decline in the number of houbara bustard visiting Cholistan. He said since the United Arab Emirates rulers transferred the administration of the palace to locals, it had failed to attract the bird. “The previous administration had set up canals to irrigate mustard fields which attract the bird in large numbers,” he said, “the new administration has failed to maintain the mustard fields.”
The administration was contacted but they refused to comment.
District officer (Wildlife) Tahir Janjua, said he was not informed on the affairs of the palace. He said climate change was a major factor in the decline in the number of wildlife in the region. “Before last year’s floods, Cholistan witnessed consistent droughts for three to four years,” he said. He said this prevented the gazelle from breeding. He said the development works underway in the region also took a toll on the gazelle population. He said earlier there were very few roads in Cholistan but recently almost every part of the region had been connected through roads. “The habitat suitable for gazelles and migratory birds is getting smaller and smaller,” he said.
Cholistan has the biggest deployment of Wildlife Department officials in the country. There are 14 check posts in the region to curb illegal hunting.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2011.