The scrub forests of the Salt Range of Potohar are spread around Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Attock, Chakwal and Khushab districts of the Punjab Province. These forests were mostly no man's lands at the start of the century. Exceptions were small tracts used for rain-fed agriculture by the local population.
These scrub forests were the harbingers of vast floral, faunal and ecosystem diversity. Records show that the District Magistrate of Shahpur gave rewards for the killing of pythons, lions and tigers until the end of the 19th Century. Realising the importance of these forests, the British rulers of India made settlements under forest laws in 1902. The rights of grazing, grass cutting and the collection of firewood for domestic use were granted. Private ownership of land was also established. Large tracts of lands were set aside as communal grazing lands while the rest of the areas were declared as reserve forests where grazing or any other intervention was not allowed. Forest laws were vigorously implemented in the reserves. Until the landscape favoured grazing in the communal lands, there was little conflict between the local population and the forest authorities.
After over a century of free grazing in the communal lands, land degradation has resulted, and the pressure is now shifting to the reserve forests. Mining activity and large scale nomadic grazing by the Bakarwals have also had adverse effects on the reserves. In a major portion of the forests, grazing rights were granted upon the payment of a fee. The browsing of goats and camels was not allowed in any of the forests. However, in practice, goats and camels freely graze and browse in these forests. The management plans for these forests have been prepared and implemented. Although a 10-year rotational grazing system was allowed in some forests classified as protected forests, this was not implemented in practice. The Forest Department earns substantial revenues through the sale of grass and by the issuance of grass cutting permits to non-right holders. Those villages that were granted free rights to collect firewood for domestic use continue to enjoy these rights.
The tremendous increase in the human and livestock populations of the Salt Range areas has brought the forests to such a stage that the Forest Department has now devised a forest management strategy that involves the local population. This is being achieved by the range and scrub component of the Punjab Forest Sector Development Project. The social mobilisation of the communities is in progress and it is hoped that most of the forests shall be utilised in a sustainable way without adversely affecting the scrub forest ecosystem and productivity. However, this is a difficult task and only time will tell if the Forest Department has improved or further deteriorated the forest resources, by introducing community participation into forest management.
The Torghar Conservation Project (TCP) ranks as one of the first sustainable use initiatives in the country. The TCP was started by a group of volunteers to stem the illegal markhor and urial hunting that had resulted in the dwindling of the two species in the Torghar Hills region. The project was run informally until 1994 when a NGO called the Society for Torghar Environmental Protection (STEP) was formed to administer the project. The NGOs and the government as a tool for conservation have accepted the concept of using trophy hunting as a tool for wildlife conservation. The dynamics of this tool are described in Box 19.
Box 19: Trophy Hunting in Pakistan-an Important Tool for Conservation 47
In Pakistan as in almost all other developing countries where many of the large mammals are threatened with extinction, both government and non-government conservation organisations now endorse trophy hunting as a pragmatic management tool for conservation. For many years, limited trophy hunting has been practised in the provinces of Balochistan, NWFP, and Sindh as well as in the Northern Areas of Pakistan.
In the Torghar Mountains of northern Balochistan, trophy hunting has been used as a management tool for the conservation of the internationally threatened Sulaiman markhor (Capra falconeri jerdoni) and Afghan Urial (Ovis vignei cycloceros). These were at the verge of extinction when the project, Society for Torghar Environmental Protection (STEP) began in 1985. Currently, Torghar boasts the largest populations of both of these important species. The proceeds from the limited trophy hunt have been used in the development activities of the area, thus establishing a clear link between conservation and development for the tribal people of the area.
Parallel to the STEP initiative, WWF-Pakistan introduced a sustainable trophy-hunting project in Bar Valley, Gilgit. The revenue generated by trophy hunting of the Himalayan ibex is shared with the local communities and the government with a 75% and 25% share respectively. The IUCN project “Maintaining Biodiversity in Pakistan through Rural Community Development” began in January 1995. It covers Chitral in the NWFP and the Northern Areas. Trophy hunting is one of the important components of this project. Resource management plans are prepared with the participation of the local communities and where the population of the Himalayan ibex (Capra ibex) can sustain it, trophy hunting is conducted. The proceeds are shared between the communities and the government. This has led to a sense of ownership of wild resources. Similar approaches have been adopted for the Himalayan ibex in a WWF project in Bar Valley.
Trophy hunting has also been carried out in Chitral for the conservation of the flare-horned Markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri). In Sindh, trophy hunting has been used for conserving the Sindh wild goat (Capra aegagrus) and the chinkara gazelle (Gazella gazella).
At the 10th Conference of the Parties of CITES held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1997, an annual quota of six sport hunted markhor trophies from Pakistan was approved. The main arguments used by the Pakistani delegation at COP-10 were that Pakistan is actively promoting community-based management of wildlife resources. It was also argued that the financial proceeds from trophy hunts would go directly to participating communities as an incentive. In 1998, the federal government allocated this quota to Balochistan and NWFP. In the absence of a clear mechanism to manage this quota, this project is currently on hold.
Although trophy hunting has been accepted as an important tool in conservation outside of protected areas, a clear policy and associated legislation and regulations are needed to implement it. Pakistan must develop a transparent and well-defined policy with appropriate incentives to encourage the use of this important tool to reduce poaching and conserve natural heritage.