LAHORE: Illegal hunting of migratory birds and ducks doubled in 2018; more than 40,000 ducks were hunted in Mianwali,
In Mianwali, the hometown of the Punjab Minister of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, ducks are being hunted left, right and centre at lakes and other water bodies.
A report sent by wildlife officials in Mianwali highlighted that illegal hunting of ducks on Chashma Barrage doubled in 2018 as compared to 2017, said sources from the Punjab Wildlife Department. In 2017, it was estimated that 20,000 ducks were hunted. However, this year approximately 40,000 were hunted. As a result, officials fear that such migratory birds may become extinct if the practice goes unchecked.
During migratory season, majority of the birds travel to Chashma Barrage, Taunsa Barrage, Punjnad Barrage and Trimmu Barrage. Similarly, thousands of migratory birds also make head works in the province, such as Balloki, Khanki, Marala, Qadirabad, Sidhnai and Sulemanki, their temporary homes. Some can also be found on lakes.
Sources from the wildlife department claim that political influence is a huge factor behind the increase in illegal hunting. Officers who take action against hunters are often transferred to other districts instead of being praised for their hard work and dedication.
Migratory birds visiting city’s shores
Earlier, Kasur District Wildlife Officer Asif Kamran was transferred to Rajanpur after he caught Ghulam Mustafa Khar and his friends hunting illegally. In the same way, wildlife officials in Rahim Yar Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan were transferred to other districts for taking action against individuals hunting illegally.
On the other hand, an official from the Punjab Wildlife Department said that they have taken more action against illegal hunters this year as compared to previous years. “Appointing and transferring officials is routine,” the official clarified.
In October, the Punjab Wildlife Department allowed individuals to hunt migratory birds for a limited time until March 31, 2019. However, according to the Wildlife Act, a specific number of birds can be hunted with one gun while hunting in national parks and sanctuaries is expressly forbidden.
Despite these restrictions, hunting was allowed in game reserves with special permission from the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department director general. Individuals were allowed to hunt migratory birds from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. Those found violating the act can be imprisoned for up to five years and can be fined between Rs20,000 to Rs30,000. Further, the vehicles used by the individuals can also be confiscated by officials.
Recently, the Punjab Wildlife Department has sent a summary to the government for approval in order to curb the illegal hunting of birds and animals in the province,
According to the recommendation, individuals found hunting in protected areas will be fined Rs50,000 to Rs0.2 million. They may also face up to five years in jail. Sources from the Punjab Wildlife Department said that hunters continue to flout the rules because of the negligible penalty fee and punishment.
“Under existing rules and regulations, poachers found hunting in protected areas can be fined up to Rs50,000,” sources explain. “By increasing the fine and punishment, we hope to see a decrease in incidences of illegal hunting,” they added.
“Raiding teams often risk their lives to arrest hunters who are released for a mere few thousand rupees,” expressed Lahore Division District Wildlife Officer Tanveer Janjua.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2019.
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