Endangered species; Marco Polo Sheep Toward Extinction in Khunjerav valley
By Zakir Rumi
I am damned sure that very few of you have ever heard about Marco Polo sheep!
Marco Polo sheep is one of the endangered species found in the high altitude of Karakauram and Pamir range. Due to illegal hunting and human interference in their core habitat in the Khunjerav National Park in upper Hunza, its populations has remained very few. According to last year’s census conducted by forest department of Gilgit Baltistan and Khunjerav KVO its no was counted only 72.
During 1960s there used to be more than 1000 Marco Polo sheep near the China border; Khunjerav top (Voen sar). But unfortunately after the arrival of Chinese and Pakistani forces for the construction of Karakuram High way; seventh wonder of the world ‘ they started illegal hunting of these rare species and continuous flow of vehicles and uses of heavy explosive chemical in their habitat resulted in their migration to the Chinese side Toshkargan and very few Marco Polo sheep remains there.
In 1974, George Schaller proposed that there should be a national park in order to protect the endangered species of Marco Polo sheep. As Z.A Bhutto, then Prime minister of Pakistan accepted his proposal and in 1975 Khunjerav National Park was established with the aim to protect the remains species of Marco Polo Sheep.
Only a few Marco Polo sheep were sighted by the locals in 1989, but after that no one has ever reported its Presence’s. Now this is only found in the mall valley of Qarchanae in Khunjerav valley but remain here just for few months as it provides a breeding ground.
I think without discussing the role of Sir AshiqAhmed and his keen interest in the protection and conservation of wildlife in the region and his Management plan for the Khunjerav National Park which he made in 1993 will always be appreciated.
Khunjerav Village Organization KVO a community based organization is working closely with the wildlife and forest department for the conservation of this rare species.
There is a great need to protect and conserve such endangered species not locally but globally as it is present in the four neighbour countries of Pakistan. Hoping for the peace park project .