Coming Up: A National Park Along LoC
2 July 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: After re-uniting families separated by the Line of Control, the Indo- Pak thaw is now bringing hope for eight endangered wildlife species including the near-extinct Qazinag Markhore, a majestic mammal with trademark corkscrew horns. As the guns have fallen silent, a 211-sq km stretch along the Line of Control is going to be their protected home and J-K's largest wildlife National Park. The National Park, that is coming up right on the LoC from Uri up to Qazinag, is being set up by J-K Government with the help of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the World Wildlife Organisation. 'We could only think of setting up this park after the ceasefire which allowed us to go deep into the forests for an elaborate survey of endangered species. This can become the country's most favorite National Park as it is located right on the LoC,' said J-K Forest, Environment and Wildlife minister, Sofi Ghulam Mohideen. Regional Wildlife Warden Mohammad Shafi Bacha said the National Park will be created by clubbing Lachipora, Limber wildlife sanctuaries and Naganari Conservation Reserve and several catchments areas and forests. 'The primary objective behind the creation of the park is to protect the natural habitat of the highly endangered Qazinag Markhore,' he said. 'A recent survey has brought encouraging reports about the population status of Markhore, musk deer and Western Tragopans,' he said. For the first time February this year, the ceasefire allowed the wildlife experts of J-K Wildlife department and the WTI to conduct a survey along the LoC, who were surprised to witness an increase in the number of Qazinag Markhores, a wildlife species included in Schedule 1 of the Indian wildlife (Protection) act 1972 as well as J-K Wildlife (protection) Act 1978 and 2002. 'There are 300 Qazinag Markhores. This is an encouraging sign,' a jubilant Sofi said. 'The survey could have never been possible without the support of the Army.' The idea to set up this National Park was first conceived in 1995. In 2003, the J-K Wildlife department proposed Qazinag Biosphere Reserve project but WTI named the project as Qazinag National Park. But the survey had to wait till February. Wildlife experts claim the region also inhabits some rare mammal species, which are only found in Shivilak belts of the country. Though the park is being established on Indian side of the LoC, many animals and pheasants are easily criss-crossing Kashmir's dividing line. 'For the animals and birds there are no barriers or borders. After the ceasefire on the LoC, the number of Markhores and bird species have increased as there is less human interference now,' said block officer, Limber Wildlife Sanctuary, Mushtaq Ahmad.