Bird population of Chitral on the decrease

.. by Prof  Rahmat Karim Baig

As a densely mountain covered region Chitral had a good population of birds since the time when the Kho migrants had not reached this part of Hindu Kush. Because of very high peaks and cloudy weather the migratory birds also found refuge in the distant valleys but the unfortunates ones also flew to lower parts of the numerous valleys and were shot dead by the hunters to add to their scanty source of food. Hunting developed and received greater attention because of shortage of food items and many techniques were developed by the old men of Chitral to bag as much birds in one shot as they could. The birds of Chitral may be classified as :

1. Local birds who live here round the year and don’t migrate to distant destinations.

2. Migratory birds that fly into Chitral territory and spend some days or weeks here, lose a large number owing to ambushing hunters and then leave the territory and start nesting in some other places outside the high walls of Hindu Kush mountain chain, most probably in the marshes of central Asia such as the duck species.

4. The resident bird species include:  Kagh, kishipi, chichibon, kanjol, Shaghechi, Ughel, ( known as ughnel in lower Chitral) kolu, totiru, chaghli, maina, chaqar rumi, chilibohtu, shabok boik, siew, sotsurook,  ashqula, bizbar, shaurang, shonthru, khot boik, shayozo kowor, sha tutor, jadu boik, gharoi, and many others …

5. The migratory birds include: all kind of aquatic birds –  mallards, ducks, long tail and all other cousin birds; churgholik, schi ghiht, fish hunter varies, green pigeons, aghagh, chilingi, mayon, tiof, chrik, chirboik, ronzelik,  shuich, bubook, hawks, falcons ……

A number of the local birds are no more seen in Chitral now and presumed to have become extinct such as green pigeon and the number of the others has dropped noticeably. The local birds are shot by poachers and license holder hunters but mostly by poachers – birds like kolu, totiru etc. which are the victims of the poacher-watcher gang in collusion.  Why some species have decreased  needs a research by bird lovers and scientists and WWF has to take part and hold seminars on this aspect of environmental change.

The migratory birds are shot under license system and the sum goes to government treasury. There are other migratory birds that seldom come to this region except very bad weather during their flights to Central Asia. The migratory birds fly north  in February/March for breeding and return to low lands in winters and then return north for the next summer. The local birds have their habitats in the steep rocks and hatch in June. Both are the victims of the poachers and killing of a bird is not taken seriously because its traditions are deep rooted and all male except a few chase birds with catapults but females have no flair for this brutal pursuit. In the 2nd  part we would discuss the weaponry and ammunition  making and the related products of the old generation of Chitral as how they developed weaponry and making gun powder from local raw material. .. Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 16 Oct 2022

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