LAHORE: Illegal hunting of hog deer at the Taunsa Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary has led to a steep decline in the animal’s population from 900 to 550 over a span of five years.
Located in Dera Ghazi Khan and covering an area of 16,000 acres, the Taunsa Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest facility of its kind in Punjab. However, due to a lack of proper staff, the sanctuary has become a death trap for the inhabitant wildlife.
Lack of security paves way for illegal hunting of hog deers
According to a confidential report published by the wildlife department, a survey conducted in 2012-2013 estimated the total population of hog deer at the Taunsa Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary to be around 900. Gradually, this figure has dwindled to 550; the sanctuary is mainly home to chickens, ducks and rabbits, which are also steadily decreasing in number.
Currently, only two ‘wildlife watchers’ are working at the sanctuary. As a result of insufficient staff, it has become nearly impossible to curb the illegal hunting of hog deer.
In addition to this, only two guards are on duty to stop hunters from poaching the Indus Dolphin, sources added. One of these individuals is an elderly person who is above 50, the sources revealed.
They added that just a day before Eidul Fitr, a hog deer was hunted down. Staff took swift action against the suspect and arrested him, while also seizing the remains of the dead deer.
In addition to this, just a few days ago, a dead dolphin was discovered at the sanctuary. The incident was reported to the head office.
This makes no difference as poachers still continue to blatantly hunt within the sanctuary grounds. If investigations are initiated against them, they resort to using political influence to quash the allegations, sources lamented.
In 2015, a decision was made to initiate development projects worth Rs650 million, which included constructing check posts. However, the project was suspended in 2016, stated sources.
Punjab Wildlife and Parks Director General Khalid Ayaz Khan stated that he has asked the director of the Taunsa Wildlife Sanctuary to answer for the lack of staff.
As for the illegal hunting of hog deer, the DG said that he has not received any report in this regard. If this information is correct, then strict action will be taken against the hunters, no matter how much power and influence they have, he emphasised.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2018.
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