Shopian: Illegal cattle and sheep grazing are going on unchecked within the premises of Hirpora wildlife sanctuary in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. Hundreds of traditional and non-herds are grazing in the sanctuary which, say wildlife experts, disturbs food and shelter for various endangered animals like the Pir Panjal markhor, the Himalayan brown bear, the Himalayan black bear, the musk deer and many other such animals.
The 341-square kilometer sanctuary, abode to hundreds of species as musk deer, leopard, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan palm civet and the Pir Panjal markhor, has already been under stress due to the construction of the Mughal Road, which runs through it, overgrazing and other human interferences, which have led to a severe decline in the Markhor population.
Wildlife warden Afshana Dewan, who overlooks the Hipora sanctuary told Kashmir Reader that they are taking steps to stop illegal grazers from staying within the confines of the sanctuary. “We cannot control traditional grazers, but we are taking steps to vacate non-local and illegal grazers,” she said.
The Mughal Road was constructed through the sanctuary to connect Shopian in Kashmir with Rajouri in Jammu. Charging the contractors with project delays and violations of sanctuary guidelines, wildlife authorities say work on the road is still pending. “They have not started work on the roadside bund yet, which erodes the sanctuary slopes,” a wildlife researcher said, wishing anonymity.
“Where do these non-local cattle- and sheep-grazers go when there is not enough land for local and traditional sheep-grazers,” asks Shopian resident Suhail Ahmed Harrah.
“I accompanied the deputy commissioner recently on a survey of the sanctuary,” reveals Dewan. The delay in releasing funds for the construction work was the main reason for pending work, she said.
She admitted that precious herbs and forest extract is looted from the sanctuary but blamed the paucity of staff for it.
“We suffer the dearth of staff to oversee the 341 sq km sanctuary. This is the cause for the occasional incidents of herb theft or grazing,” Dewan said The wildlife department officials say that the sanctuary is home to around 130 species of birds including the spotted forktail, western tragopan, rock bunting, rufous-breasted accentor, Himalayan woodpecker, blue rock thrush, white-capped redstart, Himalayan griffon, common stonechat and grey wagtail.