By M.T. Rasool
Wildlife Dept struggling in absence of sufficient staff, equipment
In absence of sufficient staff and equipments, the wetland birds in Wular Lake and other adjoining habitats of Bandipora are falling prey to poachers. With a few field officials and equipments in hand, the Wildlife Wetlands Division is facing hardships in monitoring the huge wetlands in and around Wular Lake.
The increasing poaching incidents came to fore a few weeks ago when Wildlife officials caught a person in wee hours hunting birds with a banned punt gun. According to officials a case was registered against the accused person and his gun was seized.
Locals said that hunting of wetland birds, including migratory species, is rampant in many parts of Bandipora district. They said that birds are falling prey to poachers in many areas including Banyari, Lankrishipora, Rakh-i- Shilvat, Sumbal and Zoorimanz around Wular Lake.
The hunting is more rampant in inner areas of the lake where staff-starved Wildlife Department hardly reaches.
Wildlife officials claimed that they have registered one case of poaching this year after receiving inputs from locals.
“We are visiting the spots wherever we receive inputs of poaching,” said a field official.
Until recently, Wular was one of the centers of organized poaching, however poachers have shifted out of the area following increased vigil, the official said.
According to official records, in the twin districts of Baramula and Bandipora, which have large tracts of wetlands including paddy fields, 367 persons hold licensed guns. Of this, most own long-barreled guns. Besides, there are a large number of people who own air guns for which license is not required. It is mostly air guns and the long-barreled ones that are used for poaching, officials said.
Hunting of birds is an offence under the Wildlife Protection Act and getting involved in such an act may land one in jail. According to officials, birds hunted in and around Wular are included in Schedule 4 of the Wildlife Act. The killing of such birds attracts a jail term of up to three years.
Imtiyaz Ahmed Lone, Assistant Wildlife Warden, Wetland Division Srinagar, said they have constituted several anti-poaching teams to guard the wetlands.