ISLAMABAD: Legal action has been initiated against two poachers allegedly involved in illegal hunting and about two dozen villagers for assaulting wildlife conservationists near Margalla Hills National Park.

The first information report (FIR) identified Gul Aftab, a forest guard from Murree division of Punjab forest, and his associate Latif as the perpetrators. The FIR also listed around 30 local villagers for their alleged involvement in attacking five Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) staff members.

The altercation unfolded in the vicinity of Broha and Karlot villages, following a joint operation by IWMB personnel supported by the Punjab Wildlife Department. The team apprehended Gul Aftab and Latif red-handed while hunting endangered species, including barking deer and Khaleej pheasants.

According to Dr Anis Rahman, former chairman of the IWMB, the situation escalated when the apprehended hunters called for reinforcements. Subsequently, a group of 25 to 30 armed villagers descended on the scene, assaulting the IWMB staff with sticks and iron rods, inflicting severe injuries to them.

Additionally, they vandalised the wildlife staff’s vehicles by deflating their tires.

Dr Rahman emphasised the risks faced by conservationists in protecting forests and wildlife. “The preservation of indigenous wildlife and our forests is crucial for future generations,” he stated, underlining the unwavering dedication required for conservation efforts.

The incident prompted the filing of the FIR at the Bhara Kahu police station.

Zaheer Khan, IWMB’s protection in-charge, acknowledged the cooperative attitude of the police, despite their limited familiarity with wildlife conservation laws in registering the case.

Efforts to protect endangered species and preserve the natural habitat has consistently been a priority for wildlife conservation authorities, with incidents like this underscoring the challenges faced in safeguarding wildlife against illegal activities, said Dr Rahman.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2023

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