KARACHI: The introduction of trophy hunting programme for the markhor has led to an increase in its population, as enormous incentive for the local communities in Gilgit-Baltistan from their share of the trophy hunting licence encourages them to protect Pakistan’s national animal but it has also given rise to monetary disputes.

Many villagers say the wild goat can often be seen climbing down the perilous terrain although the markhor is still on the International Uni­on for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of the near threatened, according to a report of The Third Pole.

Under a trophy hunting licence, which replaced a complete ban on wild goat’s hunt, only four male old markhors are permitted to be hunted every season (that begins in October and lasts till April) after payment of the licence fee.

The money that came with the business of hunting the wild goat had brought prosperity to the poverty-riddled villages, the report says.

It highlights that 38 community areas have been notified as hunting spots by the government. These comprise different areas, sometimes including just one hamlet, and sometimes — like the three villages of Skoyo, Krabatang and Basingo in GB — marked for trophy hunting.

It says trophy hunting has brought money, but things have not worked out smoothly. For the last year, Rs6 million earned from the hunting of one markhor was stuck in the bank, 35-year-old Akbar Hussain told The Third Pole. Hussain runs a meat shop in Skoyo, and is also currently the president of the SKB village organisation, named after the first letter of each village.

Formed in 2012, the organisation comprises one person from every household from the three villages. There is a smaller committee of six people nominated by the members that handles the funds generated through the trophy hunting programme.

Since 2012, some SKB members have begun noticing “siphoning” of some funds by some senior members of the committee. Requesting anonymity talking over phone from their villages, some community elders said it could not have happened without the collusion of the wildlife department.

Mehmood Ghaznavi, the conservator with the government of GB’s Parks and Wildlife Department, said the disbursement of the 80 per cent of share was so clear that no government official could rob from it.

“The bidding process is transparent after which the amount is deposited to the government acco­unt by the hunter. At the end of the season, depending on where the hunting happened and the amount collected in the auction, the money is divided and cheques are sent to that community,” he said.

The markhor was a popular game animal during the days of the British Raj, and the practice continued after the birth of Pakistan in 1947. By the 1990s the markhor had been driven to the brink, and the government instituted a total ban on hunting. Since then, the numbers had revived, according to the report.

The ban, it added, was then replaced by controlled trophy hunting, a programme often cited as a huge success in odiversity conservation.

Under the trophy hunting programme, said Mr Ghaznavi, the communities received 80pc of the licence fee with the government keeping the rest. The amount varied as there was a bidding process involved, the report noted.

Aware of the conflicts within communities, Mr Ghaznavi said the government wanted to help resolve them.

“We plan to sit with the community members and revise the programme to make the process of funds (sharing) even more transparent than it presently is. At the same time, we want them to have their accounts audited,” he said. Being a regulatory body, the government had every right to demand this from the villagers,” said Mr Ghaznavi.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2019

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