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Towards Sustainable Wildlife Preservation in Pakistan

Pakistan is a country blessed with diverse wild life throughout its terrain. From the steppes of Kohistan, where we can find the Makhor to the deserts of Cholistan where we find the Desert Gazelle. As with the other matters of state we have not done much to preserve the wild life of our country. Many species such as Blackbuck, Black Bear of Baluchistan and Indian Gazzelle have already gone extinct.

In most of the developed countries the endangered species are protected by developing their habitat and only allowing trophy hunting. Unfortunately in Pakistan we have not done much to preserve the habitat. We have allowed the trappers and smugglers to destroy these species and have banned trophy hunting which has then encouraged locals of these areas to smuggle these species leading to the complete extinction of the species.

To protect these species, the mechanism that needs to be adopted is to develop an economical model around these species by allowing trophy hunting. The money from the trophy hunting should be used to then employ locals, develop the communities and protect the species.

One successful example is that of Markhor which is Pakistan’s national animal. There was a time when the illegal hunting was so prolific that we almost lost the species. With the help of the local administration and the army steps were taken to preserve Markhor. Last year the trophy hunting of Markhor fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars which were then directed to local communities who were responsible for protecting the species. Now Markhor population is increasing as this practice have been adopted for many years.

We as a country should adopt similar practices for other endangered species as well. Houbara can be made a success story for the local communities of Cholistan, Coastal Area of Sindh/Balochistan and the interior Sindh where they predominantly found. Houbara Bustard migrates between various countries before coming into Pakistan. They move between Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Arab leaders from the mostly the rich oil countries are very much interested in hunting Houbara and preserving it at the same time. It is part of their heritage to hunt Houbara using Falcons. For Pakistan, it has been a good opportunity to promote trophy hunting by giving licenses to these leaders. The Arab leaders bring in valuable investment which then employs local people. This investment has led to the development of roads, hospitals, bridges, schools and many other facilities for the local communities. An estimate suggest that the total investment for the local communities has been in access of $400 million over the past few decades.

The employment of the locals have kept them from trapping or smuggling the precious bird. There seem to be campaign that banning this hunting would be good for the preservation. However, this move could prove to be catastrophic for Houbara, as it would mean that the Arab leaders would go to other countries for hunting the same birds that they can hunt in Pakistan. This move would have significant financial impact on the local communities of these areas leaving to the unemployment large number of people. This would also encourage the illegal hunting of these birds as well.

It should be ensured by the local authorities that hunting should only be done as per the allowed quota and that the total numbers of birds hunted should be sustainable for the species. Similar practices should be adopted for the Desert Gazelle as well which is found in Cholistan.

Preservation of wild life is a national duty, enhancing awareness about it is very important but more importantly steps should be taken to preserve it for our future generations. Haphazard decisions by the Pakistani state and ad-hoc policy framework would lead to further decline and complete extinction of these species.

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