Mysterious disappearance: Dozens of ‘gifted deer’ go missing from Lal Suhanra Park

The animals had been presented to the park by a member of the UAE royal family.

Kashif Zafar December 09, 2013
Blackbucks and deer at Lal Suhanra National Park. PHOTO: NATIVEPAKISTAN.COM

BAHAWALPUR: An official of the Lal Suhanra National Park has reported the mysterious disappearance of 284 deer from an established deer breeding centre of the conservation site on Sunday.

District Forest Officer (DFO) Jawad Hussain told The Express Tribune that his recently appointed deputy Muhammad Akbar brought the alarming details to his attention when he surveyed the eight-square-kilometre conservation, known as Jangla 65 RD, upon his appointment two days ago.

According to Hussain, Akbar’s report states that 284 of the 430 Blackbucks, placed in the ‘near-threatened’ category by IUCN, and Chinkara gazelle gifted to the park by a member of the UAE royal family in February 2012 were missing in the first count made by the official.

The report of the search results was submitted to Hussain who said he constituted an inquiry team comprising range officers Rana Muhammad Sarwar, Zahoor Ahmad, DFO Fazlur Rehman and assistant Shah Iftikhar Ahmad.

The conservation site is part of the 620-square-kilometre National Park, known to be one of the favourite spots of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. A few months ago, it was reported that the premier surveyed the area by helicopter and expressed his disappointment over the deforestation in the enclosure about 30 kilometres outside Bahawalpur.

Two former assistant DFOs Chaudhry Iftikhar and Chaudhry Muhammad Zahid, have been accused of timber theft in the past. Officials at the park, however, were not willing to disclose if they were suspended or transferred after these allegations were levelled against them.

A park administration official, on condition of anonymity, revealed that some officials who are part of the inquiry committee are suspected of involvement in the disappearance of the rare animals. He said that arrangements for the protection of the deer were not satisfactory, as there were only 8-10 watchmen deployed to oversee an eight-square-kilometre area.

He claimed that the authorities were trying to cover up the growing nexus between park officials and politicians and their suspected involvement in handing these animals as gifts.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2013.


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