Poachers act unhindered in Salt Range

Young Punjab urials being captured and sold illegally in markets for high prices

Shoukat Hayat Malik May 18, 2020

KHUSHAB: Rare Punjab urials are at risk in the Salt Range as their offspring are being captured and sold illegally in the big cities of the country for very high prices.

With the breeding season in full swing, the endangered species are being targeted by the illegal wildlife traders involved in sale of young urials.

Urials are found in large numbers in Sodhi, Khabiki, Noorewala, Khaliqabad and Jibbi areas.

Local people allege that wildlife department officials let go influential hunters and wildlife traders without consequences.

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In the past few days, poachers killed at least two Punjab urials in Jibbi area. They were caught by locals and handed over to the Quaidabad police.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, a local, Liaqat Hussain, said, “In the days of breeding, killing an urial or any other wild animal is tantamount to murder and those who are involved in this should be severely punished.”

Wildlife Department’s Assistant Deputy Director Aamir Khan Niazi said he has decided to deploy all the personnel of Khushab district in the Salt Range for protecting the urials.

“This time urial breeding has been fairly good and at least 90% of their young ones are in good health.”

He claimed that so far no major violation of the law had been reported in the area since tougher measures had been taken this year.

In the past, a Salt Range Force was formed to protect the wildlife of the area. It office was set up in Kallar Kahar but later when the area was separated from Khushab district of Sargodha division the check posts set up after spending millions of rupees were abandoned and are now in a dilapidated condition.

The Salt Range has been a popular hunting site among notable personalities including Prime Minister Imran Khan, former president Sardar Farooq Khan Leghari and former chief minister Sardar Arif Nakai.

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A local, Malik Mohammad Iqbal, said firing by poachers often injures the livestock and even poses a threat to the people of the area.

Tired of the menace, the locals now offer complete support to the law enforcement agencies in reprimanding the poachers.

Iqbal suggested a complete ban on hunting in Soan Valley for five to 10 years, “Then there will be plenty of animals, particularly the rare species that are in danger of extinction.”

According to experts, whenever tourist destinations are developed in various countries, wildlife protection is ensured. Additional care is taken of the animals, particularly during the breeding season.

Unfortunately, the authorities in the Salt Range have not been able to protect the flora and fauna.

Shooting licences for partridges, houbara bustard, ducks and quails are granted to the hunters in Noorpur Thal, depending on the game season.

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Princes from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries arrive in Thal to hunt the animals. They are issued permits of 10 to 15 days by the wildlife department with the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Malik Rabb Nawaz, an official posted in Noorpur Thal, told The Express Tribune that there are three officials, an inspector and two guards, stationed in the entire tehsil.

There is an obvious need to deploy more personnel over such a large area and all of them should be given arms and vehicles to deal with any untoward incident, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2020.


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