Kasur, located to the south of Lahore and known for Bulleh Shah, Noor Jahan and falooda, is a thickly-populated wildlife district in Punjab. It’s home to hog deers, wild boars, jackals, pheasants, quills, swans, falcons and rare species of parrots. It’s divided into seven wildlife zones: Changa Manga, Head Balloki, Chunian farms, Kot Radha Kishan farms, KanganPur border, Ganda Singh border and Deo Sial. But wildlife’s getting hunted and Pakistan’s wildlife department isn’t protecting it. The wildlife watcher, who’s part of a disciplined force, isn’t supplied with a single stick or gun to face heavily-armed hunters. The district wildlife force comprising 52 watchers, inspectors and officers have nothing to patrol or follow the hunters except a single-cabin 1980s van. The department forces the wildlife watchers, paid Rs20,000 a month, to use their own motorbikes, which they also refuel themselves. They receive uniforms once every three years and don’t have medical insurance. They also face derogatory behavior from seniors in their department who force them to do protocol duties at their homes in Lahore. For this, every wildlife watcher has to live at his own expense outside the home of the “emperor” for 15 days on rotation. When they sometimes die fighting the hunters without any self-defense ammunition, their families are left without support, like the four watchers killed by hunters in Sialkot, Hafizabad and Kasur. Abdul-Majeed,who died on-duty, hailed from 17-Chak Kasur. More than a year after his death, his pension hasn’t been issued. His son, who suffered from a kidney disease, has been declared incurable by doctors. He’s spending his last days on a broken bed with his widow mother. The outstation watchers deployed at the wildlife zones have no accommodation. They spend their duty days at dhabas – roadside hotels – spending half of their salaries on food. Because the watchers lack resources and support from the wildlife department, they take bribes from hunters. In exchange for food, money and a place for living, they let hunters hunt – becoming hunting facilitators. Political elites, their friends and relatives and family members hunt animals worth millions, and no one stops them. According to the wildlife act, if a hunter kills a hog deer, wild boar or a red bull worth Rs. 70,000 or more, the maximum fine is Rs. 30,000, including imprisonment for three to five years. However, neither the fine nor the imprisonment is imposed, because the police, revenue department and the district administration do not impose the fines. If the hunter hunts in the open areas like Head Balloki, KanganPur border, Ganda Singh border, Chunian and KRK farms, the law facilitates them even more. Section 16 of the law is not applicable outside the game century, so the same animals which are abundant in these open areas of Kasur will come under other sections of the law, which only imposes a maximum fine of 20,000 and imprisonment limited to only three months to a year. Some hunters are also allowed to hunt on license. According to the license, a hunter can hunt on Saturdays and Sundays. On other days, the hunter gets a fine of not more than five thousand rupees. The department can sell animals in its breeding center at Changa Manga that currently has 70 hog deers, 20 peacocks, 12 mouflon sheep, three blue bulls, 50 pheasants and 13 monkeys. Out of them, more than 18 animals died due to deficient food, fruits and medicine. If an animal like a deer dies, is stolen or sold illegally at the breeding centre, another is caught from the forest and pushed into the cage to meet the numbers as no statistical census is ever done to calculate the total numbers of precious wild animals in the forest. As per the rules, male and female hog deers are sold at a price of 30 thousand to 40 thousand respectively. Recall the fines which are 20 thousand in open and 30 thousand in century area. Who would wish to buy an animal even if they can hunt it illegally and more so, if caught, can get away with the hunt after paying the fine way less than the legal purchase price. A peacock is sold at a rate of Rs8 thousand, Pheasant Rs 900 and so on. One can buy a pheasant less than the price of 1 KG mutton and if you chose not to buy you may hunt it at a much cheaper price. In 2017, more than 30 hog deers were found dead in the canal that passes through the forest because the canal was concreted by the irrigation department. Deputy Director Wildlife Lahore Division Zafar Ali Shah told Daily Times that the function of their department is different than the police as the latter faces criminals but the wildlife department faces hunters who are respected citizens and have ‘a lust for the hunt so there is no need to give ammunition to these watchers’. “I have served the department for 34 years, and have never faced an armed conflict with the hunters. Those watchmen who were killed by hunters in Sialkot and Hafizabad were an exception and also because they entered into an armed conflict.” In response to a question regarding provision of motorbikes and fuel to the watchmen, Shah said, “Secretary forest asked us to give them 2 wildlife watchers from Kasur to serve outside the office as protocol staff and the department cannot offer TA/DA, food or place to live in Lahore because they are already having a salary and they shall manage the expenses at their own.” When Daily Times told Shah that not a single vehicle is available except a 1980 model abandoned van was available to staff in Kasur, he laughed and said that this was the issue of the whole department and not of Kasur only. When asked about the 10 department vehicles present at the homes of the secretary, additional secretary director and deputy director wildlife, Shah said that the department needed those vehicles. However, he did not mentioned the purpose of those vehicles. He added that the watchmen do not patrol and only act on information, adding that “the hunter will go unattended” if the timely information was not passed. He rejected that there was any need for continuous patrolling in the wildlife areas. He claimed that the performance of the wildlife department was excellent and everything was ‘fine’. However, when asked about the death of more than 9 hog deer due to lack of food in 2017-18, he said that they died because they were fighting with each other. While the officers find no room for improvement and the watchmen have no hope, the change in the fate of the wildlife and their watchers was yet to come. Who will step up and solve these issues? No one knows.