HARIPUR: Population of Russian dove is declining fast as its illegal hunting goes on unchecked in different parts of Hazara division, a source told Dawn here on Wednesday.

The brown-dark brown-white dove is a migratory bird that travels from Siberia and Russia to parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan every year and stays for about one and half month during pre-breeding season of April and May.

These birds return back with their young chicks during September and October after spending the breeding period from June to August preferably in GB and AJK as the weather of the regions suit their natural habitat.

Since the KP’s wildlife department allows the licensed hunters to hunt the bird from the pigeon family it’s becoming fast extinct during its stay twice a year.

However, thesource said owing to poor monitoring mechanism the hunters, most of them having no valid licence, hunt this migratory bird excessively.

“I’ve seen a hunter carrying over three dozen hunted doves,” said a villager from Ghazi tehsil, who also shared some pictures of the excessively-hunted birds. He said during weekly day-offs and public holidays the hunters thronged the areas where the doves prefer to stay during April and May and hunted them in dozens.

“There used to be flocks of Russian doves locally called Chambi hovering over the Tarbela Lake and neighbouring localities but merciless hunting in connivance with wildlife and police departments has reduced the population of this beautiful bird considerably,’’ lamented another villager.

The source disclosed that though hunting for a licensed hunter was not prohibited there was hardly any mechanism to check how many and for how many times a hunter had hunted the birds. Likewise, he said apart from local hunters a good number of hunters, especially from influential families from Islamabad and Punjab, sneaked into KP’s limits and went on a hunting spree without any permission.

The source said the Punjab had clamped complete ban on hunting of Russian doves.

A wildlife official also admitted that hunters from Punjab illegally entered Haripur and other parts of Hazara and excessively hunted the bird. He said the department was short of staff to curb the practice.

The official, who requested anonymity, said under the law the wildlife department allowed only eight doves to be hunted only once a week, and those who violated the limit were liable to be fined.

The source said the Haripur district despite being on the boundary of Punjab and Islamabad had only 30 watchers and majority of them were volunteers.

Divisional officer wildlife Salahuddin said shortage of manpower was the key reason behind unchecked hunting. He said Ghazi tehsil had only three watchers instead of sanctioned 20.

ROBBERS GANG BUSTED: The police claimed to have busted a gang of bike lifters and robbers and recovered stolen bikes and valuables from them.

SP Investigations Syed Inayat Ali Shah told reporters that a total of 21 members of the gang were arrested and nine motorcycles, Rs300,000 cash, about 4.5 tolas gold ornaments, a high roof, over a dozen mobile phones and nine pistols were seized.

The gang members were produced before the court on Wednesday which sent them on judicial remand, he said.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2020