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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