of wild animals and birds is a custom in Palas valley and
practiced by almost every male for reasons such as income
generation, meat and even leisure, including traditional.
It is considered a privilege by the people of the valley.
Besides wild ungulate and game birds, rodents and predators
are also killed whenever encountered. Sometimes these animals
are killed for no other reason than having a good shot. It
would not be wrong to say that 90 % of male above the age
of 12 years are occasional hunters.
Besides destruction of habitat through cutting of forest,
grazing of livestock and clearing of land for agriculture,
hunting of wild animals and birds is a major threat to some
wildlife species. What can reduce this threat to wildlife
in Palas valley? One right answer would be; nothing but a
change in the attitude of the people towards wildlife. And
what can change the attitude of the people? Many things, including
awareness, increase of relative values of different components
of biodiversity, and developing nexus of the development carried
out in the valley with the conservation, one good example
is that of Shandia.
Shandia is a veteran hunter living in village Mukchaki, a
small village situated in the heart of the forest in upper
Palas valley near Dombela. The forest harbor many wildlife
species including wolf, fox, musk deer, koklass, monal and
the endangered western tragopan. All these animals live in
his ‘neighborhood’ and he rarely misses any opportunity
to kill any animal or bird, which he comes across in the forest.
He spends all of his time in the valley as he cannot come
out of the valley due to enmities which potentially makes
him more harmful to local wildlife populations. He has the
skin of wolf, fox and black bear displayed in his Hujra and
has sold skins of monal and tragopan pheasants.
PCDP-BDC staff held dialogues with him and other inhabitants
of Mukchaki village and had discussions with them regarding
the importance and role of forest and wildlife for the survival
of human beings. He was quite right in putting forward the
basic problems of the villagers to the project that provides
an opportunity to develop a partnership between Shandia, his
villagers and the project. This partnership and persuasion
of the project brought a positive change in his attitude towards
wildlife. Though bringing such a change in Kohistan and particularly
Palas valley is a challenging task, only through persistent
and sincere efforts can make many things possible and can
change The Killer to Keeper like Shandia.
Shandia with his gun and skins of animals killed by
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity
and the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty”.
One needs to be an optimist to reduce the threats to biodiversity,
which is a global concern. No doubt there are many difficulties
in this field due to high dependency of the local people on
natural resources and lack of awareness but persistent and
sincere efforts guarantee a positive change.