A Sambar deer that entered Azad Kashmir from across the Line of Control. — Dawn
A Sambar deer that entered Azad Kashmir from across the Line of Control. — Dawn

MUZAFFARABAD: A female Sambar deer believed to have penetrated the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) territory from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kotli district was released into its natural habitat along the unmarked dividing line on Sunday.

The Sambar (Rusa unicolour) is a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent, South China and Southeast Asia that is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List since 2008.

AJK wildlife and fisheries department director Naeem Iftikhar Dar told Dawn that a group of villagers had captured the deer in their Dharamsal village, located in the proximity of the LoC, at about 10:30am.

A wildlife guard also reached on the occasion and it was mutually resolved to shift the animal to the office of Charhoi’s assistant commissioner for a further decision about its release or captivity, he said.

Animal lost its way into Kotli district from India-held Kashmir

Mr Dar said initially it was decided to transfer the deer to the wildlife department manned zoo in the neighbouring district but later the decision was changed because the animal was healthy and capable of surviving in its natural habitat.

It was released along the LoC after sunset by a group of officials from the wildlife department and tehsil administration,he said.

A video clip about the release showed the officials taking the deer out of a vehicle, removing the rope from around its neck and pushing it towards a mountainous slope. The deer galloped across the mountain in a short while.

Interestingly, many of the officials present on the occasion were heard bidding adieu to the female deer as if it was a human being.

“Be in God’s protection,” they said.

Mr Dar said Sambar deer had its presence [mostly] in occupied Jammu areas but over the past few years there had been many instances of its migration to the adjacent areas on this side of the divide.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2022

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