The ministry of climate change has drafted Pakistan’s first ever National Wildlife Policy that aims to tackle wildlife trafficking, minimise the human-wildlife conflict and protect animals from cruelty.
According to the ministry, although the National Forest Policy (2015) covers some wildlife-related measures, however, a comprehensive policy covering all aspects of wildlife is needed.
Acknowledging the rampant illegal trade of endangered animals and their parts in Pakistan through social media, the policy proposes the establishment of “special cells to investigate online sales of wildlife products by monitoring social media sites constantly.”
Illegal traders use Facebook pages and groups to buy and sell rare animals.
The pangolin or scaly anteater, freshwater turtles, saker and peregrine falcons and houbara bustard are some of the endangered animals that are illegally exported from Pakistan. Certain rare lizard species are also traded.
The proposal also called upon the federal and provincial governments to “weed out all forms of illegal wildlife trade wherein wild animals used as source of pets, black magic, medicinal use, street entertainment, zoo, taxidermy and circus, feather and other body parts by strengthening of relevant field staff.”
Managing human-wildlife conflict
Encroachment of jungles and areas that were previously the habitat of local animals increases the chances of animal attacks on humans and livestock. Such confrontation leads to retaliatory killing of animals like leopards.
The policy suggests that in coordination with the private sector, life and livestock insurance schemes shall be introduced for potentially vulnerable areas close to predator animals range.
The ministry recognised the success of the community-based trophy hunting programme of the markhor and other ungulate species like the ibex and urial and the socio-economic uplift of local communities as a result of this practice. The proposal urges the provinces “to identify more potential wilderness areas with different target species of wild animals for expansion of this successful module.”
Trophy hunting opportunities are usually availed by foreign hunters who pay reasonably good amounts, often in dollars.
The policy also calls upon the government to work with non-governmental organisations to ensure transparency and effectiveness of these flagship programmes.
Need to revisit animal cruelty act
Animal cruelty is still very much prevalent in Pakistan. Not only are wild animals such as bears and lions are kept captivity in cruel conditions, but burden bearing animals like donkeys are often loaded with much more than they should be carrying.
The policy identified that the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890’ need to updated to include all major categories of animal groups such as wildlife species and zoo animals while new elements of animal rights and increases in fines need to introduced.
It also proposes a constitution of a ‘National Animal Welfare Committee’ in consultation with other ministries as well as provincial wildlife department and NGOs working for the cause of animal rights.