Shopian: The sighting of three Markhors in Hirpora wildlife sanctuary has raised hopes of the revival of the famed but endangered Himalayan goat (Markhor) in Kashmir, but experts warn that little is being done to stop the activities which have severely disturbed the habitat of this species.
Deputy Commissioner Shopian Choudhary Muhammad Yasin in a tweet on Monday wrote, “This year’s 1st Markhor sighting in Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary, Shopian. A rare and welcome sight of this elusive, majestic but threatened animal.”
According to Wildlife Trust of India researchers, three animals were sighted a few days ago in Zaznad area of Hirpora wildlife sanctuary, some 35 kilometers from district headquarters Shopian.
Riyaz Ahmad, the project head of Wildlife Trust of India for Markhor Conservation, said that for a couple of years now, livestock grazing in Hirpora WLS has come down to some extent as the Trust along with the wildlife department has created awareness among people and many illegally visiting shepherds have been evicted from the sanctuary.
He, however, said that it many and massive programmes are needed to stop activities such as grazing, encroachment and constructions so that the revival of the endangered species is possible.
According to a government survey, Hirpora wildlife sanctuary had 70-75 Markhors in 2003-04 and the numbers came down to 30-35 in 2013-14. A senior official said that currently their number wouldn’t be more than 25.
An official of the Wildlife department said that before 2000, there had been multiple sightings of Markhors in Hirpora but since then the animals were rarely seen.
It is pertinent to mention here that during these years the Mughal Road was constructed through the heart of Hirpora sanctuary, and huge power transmission lines between Poonch region of Jammu and Shopian in Kashmir were laid through the sanctuary.
A senior government employee told Kashmir Reader that many guidelines were violated during the construction of the Mughal Road and the laying of the power lines.
“All the shepherds due to cold weather have vacated the sanctuary premises and now these Markhors have been sighted. It shows that livestock grazing is heavily affecting the survival of Markhor and other endangered animals,” he said, adding that when shepherds occupy the sanctuary area, there remains very less space for animals to live.
Intisar Suhail, Wildlife Warden, Shopian division, told Kashmir Reader that a pre-winter survey for Markhor will be carried out by the department. “Our previous survey says that there are around 30 Markhors in the sanctuary,” he said, adding that the recently sighted Markhors were seen by department officials inside the sanctuary some days ago.
The Hirpora wildlife sanctuary is spread on over 341 square kilometers and is home to hundreds of birds, animals, medicinal herbs and water resources. This forest area was declared a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1987.