The killing fields | Pakistan Today

The killing fields

  • Unethical hunting of endangered animals must stop

‘Come all and sundry, chance of a lifetime!  Let’s kill the wretched Nilgai, the Black Bucks and the Chinkaras.  Guaranteed to be hand fed by us, in their cages and enclosures. Fattened to your hearts desire, and readied for the ‘slaughter’.’

‘We assure you that these animals will not run away, even if you have fired numerous shots at them.’

‘We will let you hunt some of them in the Lal Sohanra National Park (UNESCO recognized Biospere Reserve) also. We are oblivious to whatever the Civil Society, or the IUCN, or the WWF or even UNESCO might have to say about it.’

Wiped out and totally extinct in the wild (in Pakistan), the few that still remain, are confined to zoos and some fenced National Parks. The Black Buck is totally extinct in the wild, whereas there are a few Nilgai (maybe 60 to 70 in number) which are scattered in the Indo-Pak border areas. They are listed in the highly endangered category in the IUCN red book, the ultimate guide to the status of any species of animals or birds.

Wiped out and totally extinct in the wild (in Pakistan), the few that still remain, are confined to zoos and some fenced National Parks. The Black Buck is totally extinct in the wild, whereas there are a few Nilgai (maybe 60 to 70 in number) which are scattered in the Indo-Pak border areas

Slaughter, and not sport is the word which immediately came to my mind after seeing the advertisement, inviting applications from hunters to kill these beautiful, magnificent creatures of God, but more importantly; rare animals in Pakistan.

There is no question about the fact that hunting is a true sport, and humans have hunted wild animals since their creation. The basic ingredients of a hunt are, that the species being sought by the hunter should be wild.

But what is hunting? Hunting is the sport of pursuing and killing wild game animals in order to provide food; simply for the thrill of the chase; for the enjoyment of outdoor life; for the challenge it poses in terms of physical fitness, strength and stamina; to test the hunter’s ability as a marksman.

People have been hunting since prehistoric times to provide themselves and their families with food, fur, leather, clothing, and the hides of the prey for shelter. With the development of agriculture, domestication, animal husbandry, and eventually manufacturing, hunting gradually diminished in importance, as a means of survival.

Because of its challenge and pleasure as a sport however, hunting has remained a popular activity even in modern times.

The Black bucks or the Nilgai being offered to be killed by the Punjab Wildlife Department have never been in the wild. Most of these semi-domestic animals were born, bred and raised inside the enclosure (fenced pen), the Black Bucks at the Lal Sohanra National Park and the Nilgai in the Wildlife Complex, Pirowal. They are fed green fodder and a supplemantery diet of grains twice a day, therefore they are in constant interaction with humans, and have lost all fear of man. In fact, they are quite as tame as the pet dog, or the cow or the goat; raised in your backyard.

Let me be very clear on one pount, I am not against hunting!  If it is ethical and not being carried out in National Parks or Cages, and there is an element of sport in it. Perhaps, at this point of time this is not the main issue. The issue is very simple:  Would we term it as hunting or just killing?

I have deliberately used the word killing and not the word hunting, because a true hunter/sportsman would never want to kill domestic or even semi-domestic animals!

My question to the various actors in this drama, namely, The Wildlife & Parks Department, Government of Punjab, certain individuals/experts, conservation and preservation organizations/commissions and international foundations, is very simple:

Is this fair game? Are these Antilopes wild? Will there be the thrill of a fair chase? Is there any challenge in it at all?

The Answer: It is neither of these, it is simply killing and not hunting!

The pattern is the same. Breed them, release them, kill them!

A similar hunt of Black Bucks was conducted in 2008, with disastrous results.

Forty male Black Bucks were caught from the Lal Sohanra enclosure. Three died during this process two died during transportation, one broke its leg. Thirty four were released inside the walled Toba which measures 150 by 150 feet. They could only walk or sit on the edges of the depression, as there was still some water and slush in the depression in the center. There was no shade on top, and the animals were exposed to the blazing desert sun (where temperatures soar beyond the 50 degrees mark) the whole day long. A further five died during this confinement.

Two bucks were caught, caged, and later released in the ‘killing fields’ per hunter, 15 minutes prior to the start of the hunt, the hunters were transported to the release site in the Game Departments 4x4s, the animals pointed out to them and a shot or shots taken. Some of these were shot, and a few were unlucky and escaped to die an even worse, slow and agonizing death due to exposure, hunger and thirst later! No one tried to find out, who was to blame.

The hunters were asked to shoot the Nilgai inside their cages, because the Wildlife Department people could not net them or tranquilize them, to be able to bring them out! It was disgusting and a mockery of the sport.

A Native American Chief once said, ‘Whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man also’

I know there will be many amongst us, who will jeer, sneer, and laugh at this concern for wildlife. But one hopes that this might touch a raw nerve in some. Beware and take note, those of you who are engaged in the wanton destruction of our wildlife, a day will come when you shall have to answer for these crimes. I am sure that many options are available for providing a suitable environment for a sporting trophy hunt, in an ethical manner. This can be done by selecting the suitable habitat for each species, releasing them ahead of the hunts, so that they can adapt themselves to that particular terrain.

There is another reason for my concern; We are also under a moral obligation to our coming generations, that we at the least, leave them with what we inherited. It is as important to preserve and protect this wealth as anything else that we value, like our culture, our history or our natural resources.

Let trophy hunting take place in un-fenced open terrain, where there are good chances of a fair chase, and the oppurtunities for the hunters to test their abilities. Provided, such hunts are conducted according to all established norms and ethics of sport and hunting.

BUT, let us not turn our National Parks and Breeding Centres into ‘Killing Fields’

Syed Tasvir Husain

[email protected]

Note: The writer has been engaged in Conservation/Preservation projects and programmes since the last 30 years. Worked in collaboration with the Cat Action Treasury, Cat Specialist Group IUCN/SSG .  Carried out the first ever Baluchistan Wildlife Status Survey. Member: Conservation & Hunting Association of Pakistan, The Field Sports & Conservation Society, WSPA, Convenor : Cholistan Wildlife & Habitat Conservation Society

Black Bucks feeding from Bins placed inside their pens/enclosures Lal Sohanra National Park