Wednesday, July 30, 2014


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Tajik Herders Use Music Players To Chase Away Four-Legged Pests

Don't MP3 them until you see the whites of their beady little Eurasian wolf eyes.
Don't MP3 them until you see the whites of their beady little Eurasian wolf eyes.

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By Farangis Najibullah and Mumin Ahmadi
What do you reach for when facing down a sounder of wild boar or a pack of hungry wolves threatening your existence?

Tradition in southern Tajikistan's remote and mountainous Kulob region would dictate a gun.

But in the absence of firearms, local villagers have been forced to get creative to defend their turf against what they say are rising numbers of predators and other four-legged interlopers.

Thanks to a disarmament campaign launched by security officials nearly two decades ago, after years of civil war, they've turned to a less lethal form of protection.

"We use MP3 players," Ramziddin Fazliddinov says of protecting his livelihood. "We want to get rid of wild animals like wolves that attack our livestock or wild pigs that destroy entire vegetable plots in a single night."

'Such A Relief'

Herders and farmers from Fazliddinov's village of Qavoq, population around 600, use the devices as modern-day scarecrows to blare recordings of dogs barking, people shouting, or even bursts of gunfire in an effort to ward off the pests.

The bulky, Chinese-made MP3 players, fitted with a speaker, are easily spotted atop Qavov's mud-brick homes or hanging from tree branches.

Twenty-three sheep and goats were attacked and killed by wolves in the last week of June alone, Fazliddinov says.

"It's been such a relief for us since the MP3s emerged," he says. "The animals used to come and swallow up our livelihoods. Now, villagers use MP3 and the radio to chase away wild animals."

Gun Control

Residents still say they'd prefer a more formidable weapon and look back fondly on the times when they could carry firearms.

"In a village like ours -- located in a difficult terrain and forest -- it's a constant fight with wild animals," Mehrinisso Ahmadova, a housewife, says. "Here, you need to have firearms to survive."

She says that in the Soviet days, many Qavoq households owned rifles and had hunting permits.

That was before a bloody civil war broke out in Tajikistan in the early 1990s. Qavoq, like other areas of southern Tajikistan, got caught up in the war. The quiet village, located near a leafy forest not far from the Afghan border, was put on the map on July 13, 1993, when 25 Russian border guards were killed by Islamic opposition fighters at a military outpost near Qavoq.

A year later, Tajik authorities announced a nationwide disarmament campaign urging people to hand over their firearms, including hunting weapons. The second phase of the disarmament operation was announced in 1997, following the peace treaty signed by the government and the United Tajik Opposition that ended the war.

But the weapons ban still stands, and border villages like Qavoq remains under particular scrutiny.

Long-Term Fix?

Mahmad Rahim, a local farmer, says security officials still frequently conduct raids in the village to make sure people are not keeping guns at home.

Amirqul Juraev, the head of the regional state agency for environmental protection, says an unprecedented rise in the number of wild pigs and wolves in the area has prompted authorities officially to permit local villagers to hunt the wild animals.

But hunt them with what? And what happens as the animals become desensitized to the blaring of speakers?

"For now, we are using the music players and it's working," Ahmadova says. "But surely it won't be long before wolves and pigs realize that this device doesn't kill them."
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