By Saleem Shahid
Poaching of rare wildlife species, including markhor and red-legged partridge, and illegal cutting of centuries-old juniper trees continue in Balochistan in connivance with government departments. According to sources, politicians, bureaucrats, officers of some powerful institutions and tribal elders continue to hunt markhor, partridge and other species in the wildlife-rich mountainous areas, including Koh Takato and Koh Chiltan, without any fear of action by the authorities.
“Influential poachers spray a poisonous chemical in rainwater stored in natural mountainous ponds. Suleman markhor and Chiltan markhor (two species of mountain goats found in Balochistan) alight from peaks of Koh Takatao, Koh Zarghoon, Koh Chiltan and other mountains and fall unconscious after consuming the water and are caught by the poachers,” Abdul Salam, a local tribal elder, said.
He said a number of the goats died in this exercise and poachers sold their skin, head and other parts in Karachi from where these were smuggled abroad.
He said local officials and staff of the forest department were also involved in illegal chopping of juniper trees in Quetta, Ziarat, Mastung, Kalat, Zhob, Barkhan, Harnai, Musakhel and other areas.
The sources said poaching of precious species continued in almost all wildlife-rich areas of Balochistan, except tehsil Dhurreji of Lasbela district where ibex and deer were provided protection and tribal people and political leadership did not allow anyone to hunt them.
Several months ago Dawn published a story on poaching of markhor in Koh Takato. The then chief minister had taken notice and issued orders against illegal hunting of the animal, but neither any departmental action was taken against the officials concerned nor could the poaching be stopped.
Now it will be a test for the new government of Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch whether he succeeds in curbing the menace and takes action against the influential people involved in poaching of the endangered wildlife species and cutting juniper trees or leaves them at the mercy of poachers and anti-ecosystem elements, according to an analyst.