UMERKOT, April 24: Illegal hunting and inadequate resources available to the Wildlife Department are threatening the existence of 'chinakara', a beautiful antelope species of Indian gazelle or in Thar desert.

Frequent droughts and loss of habitats are other problems the endangered species of gazelle is facing.

There appears to be no well-defined conservation strategy although chinakara is enlisted in the Red Data of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance bans illegal hunting, wood cutting, mining and destruction of natural habitats but these are violated by poachers and ignored by officials.

Three subdivisions of Tharparkar district are in the Rann of Kutch wildlife sanctuary which is also a Ramsar site.

Although the department has not conducted any survey but it claims there are between 5,000 and 8,000 chinakaras in the desert of Thar, a figure disputed by local people.

Officials and influential people give fawns and grown-up antelopes as gifts. Besides, fawns are also captured by grazers who earn Rs6,000 to Rs10,000 by illegally selling a pair. The last two decades have witnessed a sharp increase in hunting by influential people.

Khokhrapar police seized two deer from a group of smugglers about four months ago but the Wildlife Department released them after imposing a fine of Rs20,000. No cases were registered against some elected representatives for hunting deer near Nagarparkar three months ago.

Landlord Irfanullah Sanjrani and his friend were caught with two slaughtered deer near the village of Sahu jo Tar in the first week of February but the department released them after imposing a fine of Rs200,000.

Assistant Conservator of Thar Lajpat Sharma says shortage of resources, staff and vehicles in the department hinders action against poachers while a fine is imposed after taking into consideration health, size, age and market value of a deer.

Environmental activists Aziz Ahmed Talpur and Bharumal Amrani condemned the hunting of chinakara, which they say were almost innumerable till late 60s.

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