Khirthar National Park

Clip_116In May 2010, the Sindh Wildlife Minister, Dr Essrani, told the Sindh Assembly that it was not true that the Sindh Wildlife Department carried out census of animals in the Khirthar National Park (KNP) on an annual basis.

“Annual surveys of animals are conducted only in game reserve areas of Surjan, Sumbak, Eir and Hothiano to regulate the community-based trophy hunting in a successful manner,” he said, while replying to a question of MPA Nadeem Ahmed Bhutto.

He pointed out that last comprehensive scientific survey of all natural resources of the KNP was conducted in 2000 by a team of experts from the Melbourne University of Australia, wherein population of key wildlife species was reported.

According to the Australian University’s report, there were 10,895 Sindh ibex, 9,750 Urial, 480 Chinkara, two or four hyena, four or six wolves, between 80 and 100 cats, 10 and 12 penguin, eight or 10 honey badger and 34 reptile species. He said that current population of key wild animals in the KNP estimated by an Wildlife Department team up to 2009 was 16,550 Sindh ibex, 12,360 Urial, 1,550 Chinkara, six hyena and 10 to 12 wolves.

In reply to another query, Dr Essrani said that it was not true that the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and Sindh Wildlife Department entered into an agreement to explore gas and oil from the Khirthar National Park.

He pointed out that the KNP had been declared ‘protected’ under Category IV of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. All kinds of hunting, poaching, grazing and any kind of disturbance and loss to the natural environment was prohibited under Section 14 of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972.

He said that the Sindh Wildlife Department, being the regulatory authority, was taking all required steps to safeguard the natural environment of the park through watch and ward system and effective patrolling in the park.

The Minister acknowledged that the Pak-Arab Refinery Company (Parco) had laid an oil pipeline in 2001 along the Sui Southern Gas Company pipeline, which passed through the KNP, but not through ‘core care’ of the KNP.

He affirmed that Parco had assured the Sindh Wildlife Department of its assistance for the KNP’s betterment on certain terms of reference.

According to the terms of reference, the Wildlife Department issued a no-objection certificate to Parco for laying white oil pipeline from Karachi to Multan through the KNP along the existing SSGC pipeline. Parco will provide assistance not in shape of cash to the Wildlife Department as per requirements of the SWD for the betterment of the park. The Department will only submit demands or requests to Parco and then Parco will provide those items to the Department after making payment direct to the party. Under this assistance, four vehicles, i.e. two double-cabin pick-up trucks and two single-cabin pick-up trucks (4×4) were provided to the Department for patrolling and to strengthen the watch and ward system in the KNP and abetment of poaching and illegal hunting in the park.

Dr Essrani said that Parco provided Rs 20 million assistance to the Department for different activities such as purchase of four 4×4 vehicles, installation of two deep-drilled tube-wells, one at the Khirthar mountain and one at the Khar centre in the KNP, construction of crocodile pond at the Khar centre for captive breeding, repair of existing captive breeding centre of animals at the Khar centre, repair and renovation of the existing civil structures at the Karachi and Khar centres in the KNP, reconstruction of four rooms of existing conservator wildlife office, Karachi, repair of existing five vehicles of the SWD, purchase of equipment and articles for survey of animals, construction of small check-dams on mountains of the KNP, repair of existing crocodile pond at the Khar centre and purchase of audio-visual equipment for the Department.

In Sept 2023, the discovery of three Ibex carcasses raised serious concerns about the potential of outbreak of a mysterious disease. These deaths followed 12 earlier fatalities attributed to an epidemic.

It was a matter of concern that all the dead ibexes were found near water ponds, raising doubts if the water had gone poisonous in some way.

Sindh Wildlife Administrator Mumtaz Soomro said that besides the dead ibexes, there were reports of nine other sick ibexes. The SWD officials believe that the disease was spreading from the water and the ponds were cleared. In view of the risk of disease spread, the flow of water into the large pond was shut off.

The Kirthar National Park situated in the Kirthar Mountains in Jamshoro district is spread over 3,087 square kilometres making it the third largest national park in Pakistan. The ibex population in this protected area is estimated to be 30,000, whereas a sizeable number of other mammal-like wildcat, wolf, hyena, jackal and badger also thrive there. It is home to a remarkable 500 wild species. Among its celebrated residents are the Sindh Ibex, an endangered species that has been slowly making a comeback within the park.

The wildlife officials took the carcasses into custody for further examination. The Chief Conservator later said that there was no outbreak of a mysterious disease brought some relief and quelled apprehensions but the incident underscored the need to introduce surveillance and redressal mechanisms to protect the regions unique flora and fauna species. The proposal for a comprehensive survey and veterinary intervention to diagnose animals’ health issues is a prudent step and aligns with the core principles of “proactive” conservation, emphasising the importance of early detection and treatment of potential diseases that could affect the park’s wildlife. Moreover, the recent outbreak of the highly contagious Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) disease affecting wild goats within the park is a cause for concern as such outbreaks do occur regularly and therefore need to be dealt with under well-established healthcare mechanisms.

Through concerted reforms and by actively supporting and raising awareness about the challenges faced by our national parks, we can ensure that Kirthar National Park continues to thrive and provide a sanctuary for our beloved Sindh Ibex and other wildlife species.

0 thoughts on “Khirthar National Park

  1. Please check your report there can never be 12 penguins in this park it could be pangolins. We need to educate reporters and other activists
    Ali

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