MEMBER UPDATE: Local communities bring markhor back to Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan
Markhor family in Chitral Gol National Park © Chitral Gol Wildlife Division
Pakistan lies at the crossroads of three zoogeographic regions, and its diverse geography, soil, and climate give the country a rich diversity of fauna and flora. Located in the lofty mountains of the Hindukush, the Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is famous for supporting the largest wild population of markhor, classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Chitral Gol National Park was established in 1984 to protect this species and others.
Prior to the inception of community-based conservation efforts, the markhor of Chitral Gol were facing poaching and the degradation of their natural habitat by livestock. The ‘watch and ward’ system inside the park lacked the resources to control poaching, and resource stewardship by the local communities was also limited.
The KP Wildlife Department integrated local communities in park management by establishing village-based conservation committees; establishing a Village Conservation Fund to support community-level conservation and development efforts; establishing a community-based ‘watch and ward’ system, and so on.
Since 2000, the KP Wildlife Department and the local communities residing in 11 villages around Chitral Gol have been playing a more active role in conserving the park and its buffer zones. Village Conservation Committees, Women’s Village Conservation Committees and the Chitral Gol Community Development and Conservation Association support the Chitral Gol Wildlife Division, who manage the park under the ‘Development and Management of National Parks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ project.
Chitral Gol National Park © Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department
A 2017 survey of Chitral Gol found that more than 2,500 markhor live inside the park, and the population has increased almost 34% since the 1970s. This increase can be mainly attributed to the involvement of local communities in park management efforts. The community based ‘watch and ward’ system that was established to control poaching has been particularly effective.
In the future, the KP Wildlife Department, in collaboration with local communities, intends to use ecosystem-based adaptation to rehabilitate the degraded parts of the Chitral Gol watershed. The KP Wildlife Department also aims to sensitise local communities to the issues surrounding common property resources and build their conservation and development skills, as well as diversify local livelihoods to reduce pastoral and herding communities’ dependence on forests.
The Forestry, Environment and Wildlife Department (FE&WD) is the administrative department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province that works to improve the forest, environment and wildlife through development and application of innovative technologies and efficient management of natural resources. FE&WD is headed by a secretariat with five departments: the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department; Environmental Protection Agency; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department; Pakistan Forest Institute; and Forest Development Corporation.