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Trophy Hunting in Chitral, Pakistan
The unique mountain goats (Markhor) were at the verge of extinction in Chitral at the beginning of nineties before the World Conservation Union (IUCN) started biodiversity conservation project in Chitral in collaboration with Wildlife Department Chitral to preserve the population of markhor. As a result a number of conservancies were established and notified by the provincial government and conservation efforts were launched with the local communities already organized by AKRSP in majority areas.
Within a short period of time 5-6 years trophy hunting was introduced as wildlife conservation tool by the Khyber Pukhtunkhaw Wildlife Department, which was well received by the communities. The years and price of trophies over the year are as follows: In 1999 two trophy hunts were carried out in Thushi Community Game Reserve Chitral and each Markhor hunt was auctioned at 18,000 USD. By the year 2000, the markhor auction went up 25,000 USD and with each passing year it continuously increased and reached 45,000 USD per markhor in 2005. The figure of 2008 show that a markhor hunt in Thushi was auctioned up to USD 80,000. The last time price of the trophy in 2009 went upto USD 85,000
The interesting aspect of this trophy hunting program is that 80% of the money goes to the local community and just 20% goes to Wildlife Department for management related purposes. This money is used as salary for watchers apart from purchasing binoculars and other related equipments.
It is worth noting that from 1999 onwards there has been a regular markhor trophy hunting going on in Chitral and number of hunts each year were 2 except in 2004 when there were 3 hunts in the district.
Because of this innovative conservation program, there has been a sizeable increase in wildlife population and community members have been converted into sort of watchers looking after markhors against illegal poaching, as now the communities consider markhor their bread and butter!
From some quarters there has been muffled criticism of trophy hunting in Chitral. Is it conservation in a real sense to poach few of the big horned markhors to save the rest of the population of markhor? The practice is considered ethically unsound. The alternative option is to promote wildlife watching tourism instead of ‘trophy hunt tourism’. The former is considered sound both ethically and from a conservation standpoint. Chitral Association for Mountain Area Tourism (CAMAT) is working hard to promote wildlife tourism as an alternative to trophy hunting. We have made Thoshi Game Reserve as a must visit place where tourists take pictures of wild goats whilst climbing trees! Snow leopard is also visiting Thoshi in winter and it has already attracted attention from tourists and researchers. The movie of BBC-- Snow Leopard Beyond the Myth--is a testimony to this.
This approach is also helpful in sparing the animal for the elusive snow leopard, which is staying in the region because of balanced ecoclogical system.
But those who support the idea of trophy hunting say that ethics is taken into consideration whilst carrying out trophy hunting. There are certain ethics such as selection of the oldest and mature male which has reached final stage of his life span and having horn size of 32-36 inches. If this animal would not be hunted at this stage, he will die his physical death anyway, which means the community will loss 80,000 USD. Second, ethics included is not to hunt lactac animals, young ones amd not to hunt during matting season and so on. Another rule is that not to hunt when population of any species is less than certain number.
According to the statistics of the watcher, there are 700 goats and more than 150 markhor.
Manager Chitral Association for Mountain Area Tourism (CAMAT),
& Coordinator Destination Management Organisation (DMO), Chitral
Mountain Inn, Chitral,
Tel: +92 943 413540
Cell: +92 302 5975059