CHITRAL: The people here have stopped hunting the Siberian migratory ducks over the coronavirus threat.

The migratory ducks pass through Chitral while on their way to the down country plains during winter through the Indus flyway.

The duck hunting for three months starting in February has been quite popular with the locals as they spend thousands of rupees on raising artificial ponds and lakes along the river.

As per World Wildlife Fund for Nature data, about 1.2 million migratory birds use the Indus flyway passing through Chitral, and a large number also descends upon the valley.

Shafiqullah Khan, an environmentalist associated with an international organisation, told Dawn that rumours of the deadly virus infecting the ducks went viral on social media, forcing the people to stop the hobby of hunting ducks. However, he said the peril of coronavirus accompanying the migratory ducks was a remote possibility as no ducks from China arrived in the district.

“Rumors are bad, but this one is very pleasant as it has saved the ducks from being killed by the hunters who use sophisticated ways to eliminate the bird in flocks.

More than 50 ponds used to be raised along the vast stretch of the riverbed of Balach to lure the birds, but not a single pond can be seen this year.

Abdus Salam, a retired government officer and an amateur huntsman, said he used to raise pond for the purpose of hunting the ducks near Chitral city, but this year he did not do so out of the fear of coronavirus.

He said all his companions had also abandoned the hobby this year.

An official of wildlife department confirmed the halt in duck hunting this year, and said this was the case in whole of Chitral district.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020