MUZAFFARABAD, Oct 13: Waking up to the threat posed to native wildlife and migratory birds by indiscriminate hunting and poaching, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government has at last imposed a blanket ban on hunting for three years.
The director of AJK wildlife and fisheries department, Chaudhry Mohammad Razzaq, told Dawn here on Sunday that in order to effectively implement the ban, officials of the wildlife department, forest department, police, local administration and volunteers would be involved in the process.
Furthermore, field protection staff would be recruited during each hunting season (November-March) with the financial assistance of the AJK Wildlife Conservation Fund, he added.
The director added that it was the first time in 66 years that a complete ban had been imposed on hunting for such duration.
“It’s not just illegal hunting and poaching that has wrecked havoc on our native fauna and migratory birds; the majority of licensed hunters is equally to be blamed for the decline of wildlife in the region,” Mr Razzaq maintained.
There are around 80 licensed hunters in AJK who pay a meagre sum of Rs1,000 per year during hunting season, and according to Mr Razzaq, most of them resorted to indiscriminate hunting that had brought several native species to the verge of extinction.
He said over the next three years, the AJK wildlife department would chalk out planned hunting, mainly trophy hunting, to protect wildlife and promote ecotourism.
Mr Razzaq said the decision to impose the ban was taken by the Executive Committee of AJK Wildlife Management Advisory Board at a recent meeting presided over by chief secretary Khizar Hayat Gondal.
It was also decided by the committee that two of the seven national parks in AJK and its lone wildlife sanctuary would be managed on a ‘scientific basis’ through the AJK Wildlife Conservation Fund, he said.
Mr Razzaq said the committee had declared the common leopard, Chukar Partridge and Mahseer as AJK’s national animal, national bird and national fish respectively, adding that this was subjected to the approval of the AJK cabinet.
Western Horned Tragopan, considered the rarest of all living pheasants, was also declared as national heritage of AJK, Mr Razzaq added.
“This is a historic step in our wildlife protection history and will have long term impacts on the promotion of ecotourism and implementation of environmental agreements,” he said.
Responding to a question, Mr Razzaq said some hunters had shown resentment to the ban but the government was determined to implement it.
“I am sure the majority of our people and hunters will not only appreciate this decision but also extend all out help for its complete and effective implementation,” he said.
It may be mentioned here that under the revised wildlife law in AJK, illegal hunters are liable to a fine of Rs30,000 fine or one year imprisonment or both after trial.