Monday, April 4, 2011

Concern Over Hunting of Crocodiles in Pakistan's Lakes

A water pond outside Pakistan's Chotiari Reservoir

Pakistan is one of the places in this world infamous for violence related to terrorism. But there is also another threat looming in the nation: the threat of poaching. Just recently, there had been reports about the killing of crocodiles in the nation's water ponds outside the Chotiari Reservoir in Sanghar District. The reports have shown that the reptiles were killed in lakes consisting of a thirty kilometer area from Makhi Weir to the Bakar Lake, where farmers sow fish seed for commercial purposes. This area was once thought to be a safe haven for crocodiles, but according to author Amar Leghari, the animals were being killed by certain influential people. He further added that there were once two famous lakes: the Dogrion and Kahkaro. Each consisted of small but scenic ponds south of the Chotiari Reservoir. The ponds were considered to be ideal habitats for three species of crocodiles, including the marsh crocodile and the Indian gharial. However, tragedy struck in 1960, when the gharial became extinct and the building of the reservoir stopped the flow of water into the these ponds, thus leading them to dry under the desert sun. As a result, the crocodiles and other species of wildlife either perished or moved to other locations.

According to Maulah Bux Mallah of the WWF's Indus for All Program, he had initially received information about a crocodile killed at a fish farm last year. However, he later realized the fact that many animals were under threat of extinction was due to construction of roads, electrification, and transportation in the desert. He further added, saying that poachers would use searchlights at nighttime to lure their prey to their deaths. He even stated that the thick forests, rich vegetation, and trees at the reservoir's embankment have been destroyed. Wildlife officials, on the other hand, stated that the government does not have a plan for the conservation of the area's endangered species. As of now, the Chotiari Conservation Forum (CCF), which represents nine organizations of herdsmen, farmers, and fishermen, has recently started a campaign to save the natural resources, forests, and fertile lands of degradation.

I have a deep feeling that the area surrounding the Chotiari Reservoir is in the great need of help, concerning its habitat degradation. And it is not just the wildlife that is being affected, but also the farmers and fishermen who rely on the water bodies for fishing and irrigation. Without these ponds, many farmers and fishermen will lose their commercial livelihood. But what really concerns me is the threat of poaching in this area. The area has already lost the gharial, but it cannot afford to lose the marsh crocodile. Unlike the gharial, the marsh crocodile's diet varies from fish to larger animals. This makes it an apex predator to Chotiari's ecosystem. The loss of this crocodile will have deep impact on the ecosystem's balance. Although I'm satisfied that a campaign is launched to save the habitats, I also feel it is important to create some changes in the reservoir which will allow the water to flow in the surrounding ponds. This way, both people and wildlife will benefit. Furthermore, I personally feel the government should also play it's part in the conservation of Chotiari's wildlife.

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