Karim Mohammad Khan
A saying goes that one can measure the greatness and moral progress of a nation by monitoring its treatment of animals. The mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan are home to an amazing species of wildlife such as Himalayan Ibex, Markhor, snow leopard, wolves, jajackals, Marcopolo sheep and bears. In addition, wild and seasonal birds like ducks, seagulls, swans, doves and pheasants are observed in different valleys.
Unfortunately, most of these species are on the verge of extinction because of over-hunting. Mostly ibexes, Markhors and snow leopards are killed by hunters. Seasonal birds are also hunted.
Huge flocks of seasonal birds were seen in the region decades ago, but now their population is on the decline. At times the region experiences a shortage of such species of birds and wild animals as every second person has a gun and is seen going after a prey.
However, there are some success stories of wildlife conservation in some of the valleys in Gilgit-Baltistan where the local people have, with the cooperation of NGOs like the World Wild Fund, established conversations and have registered with the local government department of the region.
This step has not only helped to control over-hunting and maintain their population to a greater extent, but has also helped the local community to generate funds through the introduction of trophy hunting for hunters from inland and abroad. This has helped some conservation areas to generate a lot of money which is spent on various development projects. This would eventually alleviate poverty as well.
Nevertheless, GB has vast and scattered valleys and pastures with only a few wildlife conservation areas while major parts of the region are rampant with illegal hunting, particularly of ibexes and seasonal birds. If this is not checked, the mountains and pastures of GB would be left without such amazing and precious animals.
Thus, there is a dire need to replicate the successful model of conservation across the region. In this connection, the local government should take an initiative with the help of the local community to bring all the valleys into the wildlife conservation net formally.
Further, awareness programmes in schools, colleges and other social gatherings about the importance of conservation have to be conducted frequently.
Finally, the government department concerned should monitor and evaluate the newly-established conservation areas by deputing game watchers there. If anyone is found violating the rule, he must be punished.