LoC home for vanishing goats

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  • Published 8.03.08

Srinagar, March 8: The booming guns can now get a dose of bleating goats.

A park near the Line of Control will soon be home to the endangered Markhor goats.

The Jammu and Kashmir government is setting up the Qazinag National Park in Uri — the fourth in the state — to conserve the goats as well as other endangered species like the musk deer, leopards and the brown bear.

The park will be carved out of the Limber and Lachipora wildlife sanctuaries and the Nagnari conservation reserve.

“The state cabinet has given its nod to set up the park, which will be spread over 89sqkm. Our primary target is the conservation of Markhor goats, although the park will also be home to other endangered animals,’’ the state’s chief wildlife warden, A.K. Srivastava, said.

The fast-vanishing Markhor, Pakistan’s national animal, was included in the red list (critically endangered) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The large Himalayan goats have a reddish brown coat, the males adding to their beauty quotient with their spiral horns and long mane.

State wildlife conservator Farooq Geelani said the number of Markhor goats remaining in the Valley could be around 350. “Most of them live in the Hirpora wildlife sanctuary, where the latest survey put their number at anywhere between 250 and 280,’’ he said.

Official sources blame poaching for the falling Markhor numbers. “They are hunted for their trophy-like horns and meat. They also fell prey to other animals like leopards,’’ an official said.

After the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in 2005, the state government had suggested a joint national park between the two Kashmirs, but it made no headway, the sources said.

The government then proposed the Qazinag park, citing the threat posed to the goats by the construction of the Rs 255-crore Mughal Road near the Hirpora sanctuary.

The Supreme Court cleared the project last year.

The state has three national parks — Dachigam, Kishtwar and the high-altitude Hemis — located in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. There are also 14 wildlife sanctuaries and 34 conservation reserves — all spread over 15,912sqkm.

Dachigam is the world’s only sanctuary for the Hangul or red deer while Kishtwar is famous for housing the musk deer and leopards.

The highly endangered snow leopards are found in Hemis.

The Valley earlier had two national parks. One of them — Srinagar’s City Forest National Park — was converted into a golf course by Farooq Abdullah when he was chief minister.