Paucity of staff still a challenge for the sanctuary home to endangered Pir Panjal Markhor
By RAASHID HASSAN
Shopian: Contractors engaged in laying power transmission lines have damaged and defaced the slopes of Hirapora Wildlife Sanctuary Shopian – home to critically endangered Pir Panjal Markhor.
The 341 square kilometer sanctuary, abode to hundreds of animal species like Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan black bear, musk deer, leopard, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan palm civet and the Pir Panjal markhor, has already been under stress due to Mughal Road construction, overgrazing, and other human interferences leading to severe decline in Markhor population.
According to a survey conducted by Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with Wildlife department Jammu and Kashmir, there was 50 percent decline in population of endangered Pir Panjal Markhor population from 70 in 2003-04 to 35 in 2013-14.
Officials concede that heavy blasting during road construction and unchecked livestock grazing in the premises of sanctuary were the main reasons for decline of Pir-Panjal-Markhor. “Wild animals are very sensitive, heavy explosions used by road contractors and livestock grazing biologically disturbed the animals resulting into decline of Markhor and other species,” a wildlife official said.
Sources in the wildlife department reveal that The Starlight and TATA power who have contracts for laying power transmission lines, have “taken advantage” of summer uprising in Kashmir and laid wire poles violating the rules and guidelines of the wildlife sanctuary.
These agencies, sources said, have sublet their work to local contractors who have defaced the slopes of the sanctuary.
Afshan Dewan, Warden Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary, told Kashmir Reader that they have taken steps against contractors who have violated the guidelines.
“We have (also) taken issues like raising road side bund and bulldozing slopes, with the concerned authorities of Mughal Road and Power Development Department. We hope in future they will work according to guidelines and will rework on pending work areas,” Dewan added.
Paucity of staff remains a major hurdle for the sanctuary to prevent robbing of wild herbs and overgrazing by cattle herds, which impact the sanctuary habitats.
“We have only four regular staff members to watch the 341 sq km sanctuary, thus sometimes we fail to curb the violators like herbs thieves, cattle and sheep grazers,” Dewan said.
She however said that they have taken initiatives for more plantation and have plans for pasture developments this year.
According to officials some 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 are found in the sanctuary.