By Jamal Shahid
Trophy hunting as a sport remains controversial, but local conservationists and the wildlife department claim that the sports introduction in the 1990s has helped bring down poaching of wild mountain goats in the country.
Hence, this year too at least 48 permits have been issued on exorbitant fees to legally hunt wild goats.
“Markhors, Himalayan ibex and urial can today be spotted on steep slopes along the road when traveling in the northern areas,” said Dr Ejaz Ahmad, director World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Lahore, explaining how the population of mountain goats has multiplied in recent years through sustainable hunting tourism.
His assertion is strongly backed by figures: In 1986, there were less than 200 Suleiman markhors and Afghan urials in their natural habitats in Balochistan, but a 2010 survey showed their populations had increased to 3,500 and 3,000, respectively.
Provincial wildlife departments are keen to attribute their growth to trophy hunting, which was started in 1993 in the Bar Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The story goes that international NGOs and relevant wildlife departments realised that hunting four to five over-mature male mountain goats for a price did not harm the overall population.
Initially, the hunters came in from Europe and were charged $3,000 to $4,000 for hunting.
Soon the trophy hunting programme expanded from Gilgit-Baltistan to other provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab. More....