Thursday, March 29, 2018

Wildlife for sale

Although Pakistan is a signatory to several major conventions barring trade in endangered species, the sale of wildlife and products derived from these species is rife across the country. This has been found in a new study conducted by WWF with support from USAID. The study covers 23 cities across Pakistan and finds that Karachi, with 42 shops has the highest concentration of outlets selling wildlife products whereas the illegal practice is most widespread in Punjab where such shops were found in 13 cities. Most shops sell products derived from endangered wildlife. These products, used as aphrodisiac in traditional medicine and in herbal pain relief remedies, are extracted from a variety of animals including the Asian black bear, the Asiatic lion and the tiger – which is now ranked as among the species closest to extinction in the world. Apparently, these are obtained online, from circuses and from local wildlife department and the locations vary from Ghotki to Murree.
The pelt of endangered animals including the African lion and the leopard are also reported to be available in markets at high prices. Most of the animal products are derived from mammals or birds, and include extracts from many exotic species. The notion that animal fat or other animal parts can cure various conditions is widespread in the country as is the case in other Asian countries. The survey makes it apparent that a large number of middlemen are engaged in providing the animals to shops based in cities; it is also reported that staff from provincial wildlife departments are involved in this rather lucrative business. The conditions in which the animals available for sale are kept have also been noted by the survey team. We know that there is little awareness in the country about the need to protect endangered species or guard the welfare of animals. The illegal hunting of various species is an example of this – the biggest being the endangered Houbara bustard. Superstition about the medicinal qualities of animal derivatives mainly drives this trade forward. The existence of shops such as those noted by the survey is known to many in the country. To stop the trade, aside from a crackdown on the business itself, the creation of awareness is needed so that we can fulfill our international responsibility and also protect wildlife in our own country.

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