LAHORE: The Punjab wildlife protection department has begun the survey of the province’s national animal, Urial. The animal is known as arkars or shapo and belongs to a subspecies group of wild sheep. The number of urial in the Salt Range has witnessed an increase of 3,000 in its numbers over the past 10 years.
While speaking to Express News, Punjab Wildlife and Parks Director General Khalid Ayaz said that survey of Urial in Kala Bagh and Mianwali have been completed, while data collection in Chakwal, Jhelum and Khushab is underway. He added this will be completed in a few days.
“The survey conducted in 2004 showed that the population of urial had reduced to a dangerous extent, but the currently number is up to 3,700.” He said that due to increase in urial, the number of international tourists and hunters is also increasing.
Ayaz elaborated that a ‘one-day hunt’ ploy has been employed for urial hunting in Pakistan. Under the slogan, hunters do not have to wait many days and can limit their hunt to a single day.
Punjab wildlife protection department officials said local organisations are a major reason behind the increase in Urial population. Community-based organisations are contributing and are an important part of increasing the population of Urial, while also saving the habitat of the animal. A sum of Rs17 million is charged from the hunters coming from abroad for Urial hunt and 80% of this fee is handed over to these organisations.
The organisations have also been given the responsibility of conducting a survey of the actual number of urial in their areas. Urial is considered as Punjab’s identity in terms of wildlife. Not only do international hunters come to Pakistan, but locals also participate in hunting the trophy. However, according to the department’s policy, international hunters are preferred for the trophy more than the local ones.
Urial is a form of wild sheep, with elaborated horns, which is found in Punjab. There are six types of these mountain wild sheep in Pakistan and Punjab is only found in the Salt Range and Chatta Kala Range mountains. However, it has also been seen in Punjab’s Do Aaba area. Urbanisation and destruction of forests has endangered this species; a national animal of Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2018.