Thar’s wildlife is at risk of destruction at the hands of poachers
he people of Thar have dedicated a graveyard for the rare chinkara deer. They have buried seven deer that had been hunted and slaughtered recently by five hunters in Rangilo, a village a few kilometres off Chelhar, a town near the Pak-India border. The locals also prayed for the protection of the environment and wildlife safety. They say they have been deeply affected by the gross destruction of wildlife by inconsiderate poachers and their mindless hunting of endangered and rare species.
When photographs of the deer carcasses surfaced on social media sites, Thari locals, well-wishers of nature and members of civil society were enraged.
Local journalists have reported that those involved in the illegal hunting of innocent animals were caught by the villagers. They were identified as Ghani Nohrio, Ali Ahmed Mangrio and Salam Bari. Two of the hunters escaped arrest.
A few hours after the incident, the villagers gathered at Kashmir Chowk in Mithi, the district headquarters, to set up a condolence camp. Social and animal rights activists and nature and wildlife enthusiasts came together to condole the killing of these animals and to register their protest. Thar is a multicultural area. People belonging to various religions have lived here in harmony with one another and their surroundings. They are peaceful and protective of flora and fauna.
Many people are still reeling from the shock of deer killings. They are saddened, outraged and in mourning.
“They have not just killed the deer. They have attacked the beauty of nature”, says Sikraj Lakhani, an activist who belongs to Helario Pir village. “It is for the first time that the people of this area have set up a condolence camp for the beautiful wild animals.“
“It’s been a bleak day for the well-wishers of nature, animal lovers and those who believe in sustainable, eco-friendly living,” adds Khalid, another resident of the area.
Their sentiments are shared by hundreds of others citizens across Sindh.
Thar is home to several wildlife species, including the illegally hunted chinkara. Various reptiles, wild rabbits, wild birds, endangered and critically endangered vultures, herbs, shrubs, and chinkara deer (Indian gazelles) are native to the desert.
The role of local communities in the protection and conservation of native flora and fauna cannot be ignored. They play a vital role in the eco-climate zone, but malicious human and anthropogenic activities can devastate a fertile region.
It is not only the deer that are at risk of extinction; the beautiful blue-tailed peafowl are also dying in Thar. Many other wildlife species are under pressure for survival on account of climate change. The animals and birds have found it hard to adjust with the global climatic changes.
The chinkara is documented in the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) red list as a threatened category. These deer are said to be one of the world’s fastest land creatures. Uttam Singh Soda, 21, is one of the villagers who held out against the hunters and pursued the offenders. He is now being celebrated as a hero for his courage in confronting the hunters.
The subtropical Thar desert extending over 19,000 square kilometres. This is an eco-friendly region where the inhabitants respect and value wildlife.
The role of local communities in the protection and conservation of native flora and fauna cannot be ignored. They play a vital role in the eco-climate zone.
Bharu Mal Amrani, a Thar-based environmentalist, shares a notification by Mithi Wildlife/ Chinkara Sanctuary. He says the Wildlife Department lacks an adequate management strategy to tackle the hunting and other sanctuary-related issues. “Thar is in dire need of addressing the issue of protecting its flora and fauna,” he has written. He has also urged the relevant authorities and line departments to take immediate action against hunters and their facilitator. He says the Sindh government should also do more to raise public awareness of nature, wildlife and environmental matters.
According to Amrani, Thar is currently facing many threats. He says the government should suitably amend the wildlife laws to make the fine and penalties for poaching deterrent.
Three cases have been registered against the five hunters on the complaint of Saroop Singh Thakar, a resident of Mithi. The police have also seized the hunters’ jeep. In addition, senior officers of the Forest and Wildlife Department have taken notice of the incident. Riaz Ahmed Rind, the wildlife deputy conservator, Mirpurkhas, Abdul Ghafoor Sarhandi, the Tharparkar game officer and Basiro Khaskheli, the game watcher, have been placed under suspension over alleged negligence of duty. Aijaz Ahmed Talpur, the Larkana deputy conservator, has been assigned to take additional charge as deputy conservator of wildlife, Mirpurkhas. He has also been directed to conduct an inquiry into illegal hunting and file a report in ten days.
Wildlife Sanctuary Mithi, Tharparkar, was notified in 2017. It covers an area of 940 square kilometres and straddles hundreds of villages. Apart from natural calamities, man-made disasters have resulted in loss or degradation of habitats for wildlife. Wildlife experts and environmentalists fear a rapid decline in the chinkara deer population.
There is a dire need to adopt mitigation measures to protect Thar’s rare species and maintain the biodiversity.
The writer is a Hyderabad based journalist. He writes mainly on environment, wildlife and minorities issues.