Slaughter Of Migratory Birds Continues In Hokersar, Wullar

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Srinagar: Despite a blanket ban on the killing of migratory birds, hunters equipped with rifles slaughter birds in hundreds on daily basis in and around Wullar Lake and Hokersar in North Kashmir’s Banidpora district. 

Hunters equipped with 9-feet long pan guns are seen at different places around Wullar Lake including Shahgund, Kanyari, Lankrishpora, Zoorimanz and Gochur areas killing migratory birds in thousands while locals accuse Wild Life Department of being ‘hand in glove’ with the poachers.

 “Hunters use decoys to attract birds and once they land, they shoot them in large numbers,” locals said.

According to the locals, the indiscriminate hunting down of many exotic kinds of bird species is threatening the wetland ecosystem which could have serious implications on the number of birds visiting the wetlands of kashmir. “Poachers are violating wildlife rules in broad-day light as they operate without any fear from the Wild Life Department or Police,” Ghulam Nabi, an education department employee said. “Not only in Wullar Lake, birds are being killed in large numbers in Hokersar and its adjoining wetlands.”

The birds particularly grey lag goose has huge demand and is sold at exorbitant rates in market. The poachers have placed snares across the Hokersar and Wullar to catch the birds,” he said.

An employee from the Wild Life Department said that slaughter of birds is going on without any check. “I’m telling you all this as a conscientious citizen,” he said begging not to be named. “The hunters have been given a free hand to kill the birds. On an average, they kill 800 to 900 birds a day,” he said. 

He said the clandestine activity is being carried out with the open connivance of the Wildlife officials and police. “Failure of the department to stop this activity is not the only thing that should worry us but there are people inside the department facilitate encroachment of wetlands across Kashmir,” he added.

“The Wildlife Warden Wetlands Division was transferred almost a month back on compliant basis and now the charge has been handed over to another official,” he said. “Even this has proven futile as the killing of birds is continuing at an alarming pace.” 

“Sometimes, the bird kills are brought as gifts to the wildlife, police and other officials,” he said. “All this is being done to carry out the activity without any hindrance.”

Not long ago, Hokersar carried the nickname ‘Queen of Wetlands’, a sanctuary that serves as an important refuge to many different varieties of birds including  migratory waterfowls, shorebirds and trans-Himalayan species during winters. 

Hokersar has been declared as Conservation Reserve under the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978. It was also declared as Ramsar site on November 8, 2005under the Ramsar Convention. 

India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention— an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands.

In absence of any conservation measures over past nearly two decades, Hokersar has been pushed to the verge of extinction. 

A study conducted by Department of Earth Sciences Kashmir University reveals that Hokersar has shrunk from 18.75 sq Kms in 1969 to 12.8 sq Kms.

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