Four people from Kohat have been arrested by the Wildlife Protection Force (WPF) for trying to hunt the endangered Punjab urial without a licence at Kallar Kahar on Tuesday.
Rana Shahbaz, the WPF deputy director, said that the hunters, who had been armed with rifles, were in the Wildlife Department’s custody and had been fined Rs80,000.
According to the WWF-Pakistan, the Punjab urial, a species of wild sheep, is protected under provincial laws. It is found in the Salt Range and the Kala Chitta Mountain Range, in a geographical region bounded by forest in the north, the Jhelum River in the east and south, and the Indus River in the west.
A study conducted in 2004 estimated the urial population at about 860, down almost half since 1980. However, the WWF-Pakistan believes that the population has increased since 2004.
Uzma Khan, the biodiversity direcor at WWF-Pakistan, applauded the Wildlife Department for protecting the species from illegal hunters. “The species is found only in the Punjab and the department’s efforts with its partners have helped in the recovery of the population. A single illegal hunt damages the population and also the public exchequer, as trophy hunting helps in species protection and community uplift,” she said.
The main threats to the urial include habitat degradation, stealing of lambs and conflicts with livestock because of competition for grazing. Illegal hunting of urial has declined, says the WWF-Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2013.
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