Depleting population of Grey and Tibetan Wolf in Pakistan: Call for emergency conservation strategies
Out of the 32 sub-species of wolves, two are believed to be found in Pakistan. These include the Tibetan Wolf (Canis Lupus Chanco) and the Indian Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus Panllipes).
In Pakistan the Tibetan Wolf inhabits the barren Rocky valleys Baltistan, Gilgit, Hunza, Chitral, Upper Swat and Khunjerab National Park. The Grey Wolf is found in deserts of Cholistan, Tharparkar and lower hills of Baluchistan.
Currently, Grey Wolf is also found in Kirthar National Park, Chumbi Surla Wildlife Sanctuary, Hazar Ganji Chiltan National Park, Hingol National Park, Dureji Game Reserve and Lal Sohanra National Park.
The Grey Wolf is a habitual roamer and occasionally occurs in almost any type of habitat but generally avoids natural forest regions as well as densely populated areas. It is mainly confined to remotely barren hilly regions and extensive deserts.
The Grey Wolf inhabits open plains (Semi-arid grasslands, Scrublands, Grazing land) whereas other large Carnivores and forest dwellers. Their territories range from 150-300kms and are a function of prey and denning terrain availability. The Grey Wolf lives in burrows generally in the sand hills and under the tree roots.
The Grey Wolf largely depends on Livestock, primarily goats and sheep and even small rodents such as rats and hare. They are persecuted by shooting because of depredation on domestic goats and sheep and their population is on a steep decline.
The expansion of agricultural activities into marginal areas, including open plains, result in loss of habitat. Decline in habitat occur due to high human population, land use patterns, development activities, grazing pressure, deforestation and poor-prey availability.
Currently the Grey Wolf has been declared endangered by IUCN Taxon Data Sheet 2003 and Pakistan Red List of Mammals 2005.
Urial is one of the natural prey specie but illegal Trophy hunting and poaching for the past several years has severely affected the Urial population subjecting the wolves to attack the domestic animals.
Disturbance in the habitat of both Urial and Grey Wolf through firing and military exercises has also affected their population particularly in the region of Salt Ranges in Jhelum.
The local people reported that majority of the livestock killing were outside the enclosures but in some of the cases the wolf attacked inside the fence which was three to four metre high.
· The potential habitat should be protected for the conservation of Grey Wolf.
· Habitat should be protected with prohibition on collection of forest products, domestic livestock grazing, forest fires, and other human activities.
· Conducting research studies using high tech gadgets like the motion sensor cameras and Night Vision sensors etc to ascertain the population of wolves in the country.
· Paying compensation to the owners of livestock killed by wolf and imparting proper education about the importance of ecological balance and the necessity of canines at the top of the Food chain.
· Enforcing legal protection by Wildlife Department and Forest Department.
· Encouraging public support and environmental education and awareness.