Activists demand ban on sale of airguns in Mount Abu to protect birds, animals
Mushrooming of shops selling airguns in Mount Abu, the sole hill station of the desert state of Rajasthan, has not gone down well with animal activists who have demanded a ban on their sale to protect wildlife.
Located at a height of 1,220 meters on Aravali mountain range in Sirohi district, the tiny hill station, which is home to rich wildlife, draws numerous travellers and nature lovers from various parts of the country. The tourists have easy access to air pistols and air rifles, prominently sold in the municipality area. Apart from pellets, sound corks are also sold with the airguns.
Viewing the use of airguns and sound corks as a potential disturbance to the local fauna, activists have demanded a ban on the sale of airguns, which are exempted from the arms licence. However, the forest department and district administration officials said they have not received any complaint regarding the misuse of airguns so there is no ground for any preventive action.
“Wildlife is very precious and it is obvious that if such items are sold in the vicinity of forest, the prime target of its users is the fauna. People hurt animals and birds with pellets, disturb them with sound corks and take pleasure in it. Therefore authorities should restrict the sale of air guns in hills in the interest of wildlife,” Nikunj Sharma, associate director of policy, Peta India, told PTI.
Echoing the same sentiment, another animal activist Babu Lal Jaju termed it as an alarming trend and said birds and small animals remain the soft target of people carrying such weapons, which should be restricted. “It is quite apparent that those who purchase and carry such weapons in the hill station would use them against birds and animals and will disturb wildlife.
Forest department and district administration should take preventive action to check the sale of airguns in Mount Abu,” Jaju, the state president of People for Animals (PFA), said. "It is an alarming trend because the weapons which have potential to disturb animals are available in the vicinity of forest and their use is being encouraged, which is not in the interest of wildlife.
Competent authorities should immediately stop this,” he added. Balaji Kari, Deputy Conservator of Forest- wildlife, Mount Abu, said forest department staffers conduct patrolling in the forest area to check illegal activities. "We have 50 nature guides in the sanctuary and patrolling is also done in the forest area. Weapons are not allowed in the sanctuary. So far, no one has been found hurting animals or birds with airguns,” he said.
However, he told PTI, that the matter of sale of airguns in the town and its impact on wildlife will be discussed with senior officials soon. Mount Abu sub divisional officer, Dr Ravindra Goswami, said there is no ground for curbing the sale of airguns in Abu. “No misuse of airguns has came to my notice so far. I do not see any ground for not allowing the sale of airguns in the municipality area,” he said.
Naresh Mali, a shopkeeper selling airguns said, “The sale of airguns depends on the season. In the peak season, which is mainly summer, we do a business of at least Rs 15,000-20,000 per day. Air guns are famous in Mount Abu therefore there are nearly 50 vendors who sell this". “Some purchase it for target shooting, some for the purpose of safety (from animals),” he said.
Another vendor Manoj said the range of the airguns available in Abu normally varies from 100 feet to 1000 feet, or even more. "Many tourists are attracted towards these airguns. They purchase it for target shooting," he said. Air guns of different shapes and sizes are found in the market of Mount Abu, which is famous for its picturesque Nakki lake among others.
Besides, some such shops are also located along the stairs going to Dattatreya cave temple on Guru Shikhar- the highest peak of the Aravalli mountain range. Guru Shikhar is situated at a height of 1,722 meter and at a distance of approximately 15 km from Mount Abu town.