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18 July 2022, 15:09

Shrinking wildlife habitats by climate change; time to increase protected areas

PESHAWAR, 18 July (BelTA - Associated Press of Pakistan). - Former chief conservator wildlife KP Dr. Mumtaz Malik on Mondaysaid that highly vulnerable to climate change, Pakistan like other developing countries was also confronted to environmental and weather variations challenges making an adverse effects on around 786 wildlife and biodiversity resources having a vital role in food chain.

The erratic variations in the weather patterns mostly witnessed in the South Asian countries including Pakistan in recent years were making negative effects on biodiversity and wildlife conservation programs besides an adverse impact on their flora and habitats.

“The evolving weather changes embedded in climate change include erratic rainfalls, flash floods, storms, intense drought, heatwaves, rising sea, melting of glaciers, inconsistent snowfalls and extreme cold conditions have endangered many wildlife species especially in wetlands areas in south asian countries including Pakistan,” said Dr. Mumtaz Malik, former chief conservator wildlife KP while talking to APP.

He said Pakistan was among 10 countries highly vulnerable to climate change where wildlife's habitats especially of aquatic species were shrinking mostly at wet lands besides posing serious threats to shark and whale fish, reptiles and others water animals.

The wildlife expert said climate change had endangered about 90 different wildlife species with some near to extinction. The endangered species include siberian crane, white backed vulture, long-billed vulture, red-headed vulture, saker and peregrine falcons and hawksbill sea turtle.

Kashmir grey langur, indus dolphin, finback whale, Baluchistan bear, musk deer, hog deer, pangolin, egyptian vulture, green turtle and narrow-headed turtle were also endangered by the climate change.

Dr Mumtaz said around 786 wildlife species found in Pakistan including 186 reptiles and 173 mammals, and that about 90 species including 50 mammals, 27 birds and 17 reptiles were placed in categories of endangered, vulnerable and near to extinction.

He said convention on international trade in endangered species (CITES) had declared common leopard, snow leopard, Ladakh Urial, greater spotted eagle, fish eagle, houbara bustard, crowned river turtle, soft-shell turtle and many other mammals, birds and reptiles were vulnerable to extinction.

“Floods and drought destroy wildlife's flora at their grazing ground especially in wet lands and high alpine pasture areas. Resultantly, they come down to lower areas for food thus exposing themselves to illegal hunting.”

He said the frequency of migratory birds was also affected by climate change overseas where habitats of houbara and cranes were also disturbed.

‘Houbara likes cool temperatures for breeding. It is very sensitive to migratory birds and does not use the route again if it senses any danger on the way during the first journey. “Houbara takes three to five years to find a new one in case of losing a mate.”

Dr Mumtaz said” The bird lays just two eggs in a year and the elder chick often kills the younger due to fear of sharing food,” adding this rivalry between houbara's newborns is also one of the main factors gradually decreasing of its population.”

He said the rapid increase in human population was exerting extraordinary pressure on forest and converting agricultural lands into housing societies, thus habitats of indigenous wildlife including jackals, monkeys, foxes, ducks and doves were adversely affected. Dr Mumtaz said abundance of poultry forms was making negative effects on the population of jackals, foxes and mongoose.

While terming the billion trees afforestation project was an important initiative in the green sector, he said” Preference may be given to plantation of indigenous species to increase flora and vegetation for an endangered wild species besides strengthening their habitats for breeding.”

To combat climate change, he said, “we need to increase protected areas, flora of wildlife, curbing illegal hunting and trade of wild animals and monitoring of their habitats besides diverting financial resources for strengthening of wildlife conservation and protection programs.”

Niaz Ali Khan, former conservator forest department said around 10 new jungles were raised under billion trees project in KP that created breeding grounds for falcons, bears, houbara, cranes, bears, common leopard, dove, ducks, monkeys, foxes, wolves, jackals, pigeons, pheasants monal, koklas, kaleej, tgragopan, black & grey partridges and national bird chakor to thrive.

Defending eucalyptus plantation, he said it was a fast growing specie that had not only enlarged wildlife habitats in KP but also consumed carbon dioxide in large quantity besides combating salinity.

Latifur Rehman, spokesman of environment, forest and wildlife department told APP that under wildlife biodiversity act 2015, three new national parks including Nizampur Nowshera, Malakandi and Kamalban Manshera, six conservancies at Mankyal and Kalam Swat, Turchtor Koh Chitral, Kumrat Dir Upper, Dir Kohistan and Kohisulaman DI Khan, six game reserves at Gujar Banar, Mandor Swat, Dilan Hangu, Haryan Kot Malakand, Kamatmekhaillaki Lakki Marwat and Cheena Gul Hangu and four Himalayan to sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) at Bar Qalabaish Banar Swat, Mangal Thana and Malaka e Maha Banar Buner and Minkyal Haripur were established during last four years in Khyber Pakthunkhwa.

As a result, he claimed that KP's wildlife protected area that was only 10.22 percent prior to 2018, was increased to 15.61 percent in 2022.

To counter wildlife smuggling, he said six mobile and 11 permanent check-posts and six joint check posts with the forest department were set up besides recovering heavy fines from wildlife offenders after posting illegal hunting videos on social media.

He said 22,814 cases were registered against offenders from whom Rs86,400,974 were recovered by the department and Rs2,844,738 through court cases during 2018-22.

The spokesman said about Rs277.733 million were collected under trophy hunting program including regulated hunting of Markhor and Ibex besides partridges hunting and issuance of wildlife licenses for hunting of small animals out of which 222.958 million were distributed among local communities for protecting wildlife in their respective areas.

He said 26 vacancies and Rs three million for construction of link road and repair work of Chitral Gol national park besides preparing rules for KP community managed games reserves, national parks and amendments in wildlife service rules.

Besides KP zoological gardens and bio safety reserve rules 2021, he said conservancy and endowment fund rules 2021 was in final phases while fee of small arms shooting permit increased from Rs 3000 to Rs5000.

Besides approval of three new wildlife circles, he said wildlife act 2015 has been extended to merged tribal districts where 650 local people were appointed in seven tribal districts and the process of purchase of lands for construction of offices and check-posts started.

In addition to restoration of wildlife and biodiversity board and martyrs package for staff, he said the government has approved Rs200 million for establishment of biodiversity and wildlife fund.

Peshawar zoo having 34 wildlife and others animals with 104 new births, approval of Rs 188.960 million for improvement of environmental condition of Saiful Malook national park, upgradation of Toghmangara safari park in Kohat and strengthening of biodiversity and improving of economic conditions of local communities were achieved.

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