CHITRAL: The extended heavy snowfall in the high altitudes of Chitral during last three weeks has forced the Kashmir markhor in Chitral?s Gol National Park to descend on areas forming the buffer zone of the park.
The villagers of the Mughlandeh, Goldur, Balach, Singur, Shali, Awirait and Shoghor said that they had seen markhors and other species of wildlife inhabiting the national park near their villages during the last two weeks.
One Ali Madad of Shoghor said that he saw a bevy of markhors just a few hundred yards away from his snowbound village which was a unique experience for him as the wild animals lived only in the high altitude areas.
He said that they had been hearing the howling of wolves throughout the nights for the past two weeks which flocked to the human settlements in search of food when the highlands were covered with snow.
In Goldur, the village bordering the core zone of the national park, the members of conservation committee were vigilant to the situation and herded the markhors back into the park which had entered the upper part of the village in the night.
When contacted, sub-divisional forest officer of Gol Wildlife Division, Irshad Ahmed, confirmed that markhors from the core zone of the park thronged the buffer zone when the park, located at high altitude, was packed with snow.
He said that the markhor population in the core zone of the park had exceeded 2,000 and in the peripheries bordering the buffer zones their strength could be over 400.
Mr Ahmed said that the markhor with 11 years of age was treated as ageing one whose body growth stopped. He said that the number of such animals had been estimated at 100 in the park.
He said that markhor was at the verge of extinction in Chitral in early 1980s at the time of establishment of the national park, but due to better conservation strategy based on community support the population had increased significantly.
He said that the 12 villages around the national park had organised village conservation committees (VCCs).
Former chairman of Park Management Association Hussain Ahmed said that trophy hunting permits should be auctioned to control the markhor population in the park.
He said that this would also provide revenue to VCCs. He said that the markhor of 7-10 years of age was fit for trophy hunting and due to no increase in the hunting permits a number of markhors were wasted in the natural process.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2017