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The Sad Plight of Endangered Species in Pakistan
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The Sad Plight of Endangered Species in Pakistan

In many poor and under developed countries, there is very little awareness about the importance of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Wildlife is not considered a precious national asset and is often seen as a means of earning a quick profit or just the next meal on the table for a large, hungry family.

Illiteracy, poverty, apathy, and corruption are also major reasons why saving endangered fauna and flora is not on the list of priorities for people and government of Pakistan.

Matters in recent years have been exacerbated by many natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, landslides etc which have reduced population of beautiful species like Marco polo sheep, blue sheep, markhor, black and brown bears, chakor, Tibetan red fox, Tibetan wolf, Tibetan wild ass, ermine, alpine weasel, stone martin, golden marmot, lynx, and migratory hamster in the scenic northern valleys of Pakistan.

In these same valleys, ruthless cutting and felling of trees has shrunk the habitats of these animals. Forests are cleared for farming and building houses to support the ever growing population driving wildlife out. For food, they enter villages and local towns and are then hunted down by villagers who want to protect their life, property and livestock.

There is still no effective ban in place to stop traditional activities like hunting or shooting of wildlife. Where rules exist, the efforts are hampered by weak law enforcement mainly because wildlife officials themselves are usually involved in issuing illegal hunting licenses and trading of endangered species.

One example is the illegal trade of black-and-yellow scorpions which goes on unabated in southern parts of Pakistan. Hunted by villagers, who are not concerned by the shrinking population of the scorpions, these poisonous creatures are worth their weight in gold for many poor families. Though there is a strict ban on selling and collecting scorpions, it has effectively raised the prices collectors are willing to pay for them.

In many parts of the country, little effort has been made to collect data regarding Pakistan’s rich bio-diversity. Even if the will exists, the efforts are hampered by lack of trained and qualified field staff, limited funds, inadequate equipment, research laboratories and lack of knowledge of data processing.

There is an acute shortage of veterinarian doctors, and qualified experts who can look after sick or diseased animals in the field. In recent years, a large number of blue peacocks have died in Thar district of Sind province due to Newcastle Disease (ranikhet) highlighting the helplessness of Sindh Wildlife Department to contain the viral disease in the beautiful, majestic birds.

Farmers are using more and more pesticides, chemicals and insecticides for agriculture which is having a very adverse effect on the local flora and fauna and causing sickness among the migratory birds, insects and aquatic fauna.

Poaching is also a major factor contributing to the dwindling population of wildlife in Pakistan. Himalayan brown bears and leopards are hunted for fur, precious animals are killed for sport and trophies or captured alive for export to foreign collectors.

But all is not lost. There is growing cognizance among the masses, more people are using social media to create awareness and putting pressure on the government to allocate funds to save endangered animals and battle corruption in concerned departments.

Many NGOs, wildlife photographers and animal lovers have joined hands to try and reverse the damage done to wildlife and their habitats. What is needed is mass awareness of importance of eco-system for future generations, foreign expertise and a more concerted effort to save Pakistan’s rich biological diversity from going into extinction.

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  1. Mom2Four
    Interesting! I voted.
    1. Gulrukh Tausif
      Thank you. Much appreciated!!
  2. Umyma
    Helped me with my geography project. Thanks! I voted.
  3. katkar
    A well-written and timely article. I think that a big problem is culture. Before anyone is offended, let me specify that I am not singling out one specific culture, but the characteristic of many cultures that places humans above other animals (or doesn't even consider us as one of many species). When people believe that they are superior to animals (or to other people), they can get away with anything. If people have empathy and some humility, they prioritize nature protection and also focus on creating opportunities for ordinary (poor) people. The more prosperous the average person in a society is, the better law enforcement can be.
    1. Gulrukh Tausif
      Thank you so much for your comments I think in addition to culture, poverty and overpopulation also play a big role. It is difficult to care for four legged creatures or scurrying scorpions if you have 6-7 children who are hungry. There is no use of holding a conference on bio-diversity in a five star hotel in a big city. The knowledge and infrastructure should be brought to local villages and communities where wildlife is in close contact with human population and both are dependent upon each other on their survival.
      1. katkar
        I agree. I think that an important aspect of the solution is developing the infrastructure for eco-tourism. Tourism is an industry that can deliver high returns with relatively low investment. Conservation laws need to favor local people, who share the land with wild animals and are therefore key stakeholders. If local people are not sensitive to the needs of wildlife, all external pressures such as law enforcement will fail, because they will cause resentment among natives and create incentives for corruption among forest guards. However, eco-tourism can bring money that will go directly to the local communities. Locals can become guides, offer lodging and food, provide vehicles on rent. If local people can make money from tourism, they have the incentive to protect animals instead of poaching them. Tourists also act as extra pairs of eyes and ears against wildlife crimes. This has been accomplished with much success at the Chikila Lake in Odisha, India, where poachers have turned guides, boatmen and now use their keen understanding of birds to guide tourists and photographers, not for poaching. In the state of Gujarat, fishermen who used to hunt whale sharks (a protected species) have become guides for people who now visit the coast to watch them. Last year, Botswana outlawed hunting because the data clearly showed that the country and locals gained a lot more money from eco-tourists, not hunters (and hunting and tourism cannot exist together). Once a few pilot projects succeed, more people will act to protect wildlife in Pakistan, motivated by profit if not by a love for animals.
        1. Gulrukh Tausif
          These are all great suggestions and with your permission, i would like to share these examples on any forum that is ready to listen. I also feel that each of us has to look at bigger picture when it comes to bio-diversity. If migratory birds in Siberia die, the ecosystem of Manchhar lake in Pakistan is disturbed and vice-versa. Instead of isolated pockets, we should share expertise, experiences and if needed personnel. Thank you once again for your valuable comments:-)
  4. olkingcole
    I voted
    1. Gulrukh Tausif
      Thank you:-)
    Gulrukh Tausif, peacocks are beautiful! I have a respectable fear of scorpions, but every species plays a part in the ecosystem for future generations! Voted #8
    1. Gulrukh Tausif
      Very true. each species plays an important role in ecosystem and we have to respect their role. Thank you for the vote and comment.
  6. Anita Vegana
    Very important info here! I voted!
    1. Gulrukh Tausif
      Made all the better by Anupam Katkar for adding his valuable suggestions and comments:-) Thanks Anita.


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