Islamabad - Federal Minister for Climate Change, Mushahid Ullah Khan said on Monday that the wildlife is an important resource with economic, cultural and recreational value to humans, and is an integral part of biodiversity.
However, there is pressing need for their protection and conservation. He urged all the relevant government authorities, particularly wildlife departments, to boost their efforts for protection and conservation of the wildlife, mainly those which are on the verge of extinction.
The minister expressed these views in the context of the World Wildlife Day being marked on March 3 (today) across the globe including Pakistan. This year, the World Wildlife Day 2015 is being marked with the theme, “wildlife crime is serious, let’s get serious about wild life crime.”
Counting causes of hunting of wildlife species in the country, the minister noted that wildlife crime has been on the rise due to various socio-economic factors. “Poverty and under-development have led to an increase in wildlife crime across many developing countries. Wildlife Crime has become such a serious issue that if not checked now it may lead to extinction of many species of wild plants and animals. In view of this, international community including United Nations Organization, CITES, INTERPOL, NGOs, have called upon countries to work together to curb illegal trade of wildlife.
He said, “The day is reminder for us all to recognise the unprecedented significance of the wildlife to the sustainability of our biodiversity system that involves – among others - land, water, forests and air.” The United Nations General Assembly, on 20th December 2013, decided to celebrate every year the 3rd March as World Wildlife Day. It is the same day when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted in 1973. “Pakistan with its unique geographical location and climatic conditions has a varied and interesting mix of flora and fauna. These beautiful species have aesthetic value besides providing numerous ecosystem services which are necessary for delicate balance of life,” the minister highlighted.
Mushahid Ullah Khan also reaffirmed that as a signatory to CITES, Pakistan remains committed to ensure that international trade of wild fauna and flora is not detrimental to their survival. Pakistan’s wildlife includes 668 species of birds, 195 species of mammals and 192 species of reptiles.
He said that for protection and conservation of these species and their habitat, a network of protected areas are already in place working under the provincial wildlife protection laws. These include 26 national parks, 92 wildlife sanctuaries, 89 game reserves and 115 community reserves. The network of protected areas covers about 12% of the land area of Pakistan, Khan elaborated.
Highlighting Pakistan’s role in conservation and protection of the wildlife, the minister said that the country has been an active member of international community for conservation of wildlife and has participated in regional initiatives like South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN). The enactment of Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act 2012 at the Federal level has been a major landmark achievement of the Ministry of Climate Change. This law provides domestic legal authority to implement the international law, he added
Counting positive socio-economic impacts of trophy hunting, the minister Mushahid Ullah Khan said that the community-managed trophy hunting of game animals like Markhor, Urial, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Ibex, and Sindh Ibex is being successfully implemented in Pakistan and is recognized by the world.
The local communities get 80 percent share of the revenue generated, which is used for conservation and socio-economic uplift. This incentive has helped to reduce wildlife crime in mountainous areas of Pakistan, he added.
The federal climate change minister pressed on need for raising awareness about seriousness of wildlife crime and its negative impacts on [biological] ecosystem and said, “It is critical for safeguarding our natural resources for future generations.” The trend of smuggling of wild species that have no domestic threat like turtles and pangolin has raised alarm all over the world, he pointed out.
“However, I commend the efforts of the Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan Customs and Provinces that are working hard to check smuggling of wildlife species from Pakistan,” the minister said and urge the Pakistan Customs and the Provincial authorities to double their efforts to conserve our natural assets from the menace of smuggling. He also urged the people to join the government’s efforts to eliminate wildlife crime in Pakistan.