Illegal wildlife trade can be checked through better coordination: minister


ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, on Wednesday urged the provincial wildlife department officials to boost their efforts to control wave of smuggling of wildlife species, particularly turtles and tortoises.

“It is a matter of grave concern that the wildlife smuggling has escalated significantly in recent years, yet the provincial wildlife departments’ efforts for foiling a number of wildlife smuggling bids of turtles and other wildlife species in recent months merit appreciation,” Khan said while chairing a high-level second meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Management Authority, held in the Committee Room of the Ministry.

The minister noted that the prime motivating factor for wildlife traders is economic – ranging from small scale local income generation to major profit-oriented business, such as marine fisheries and logging companies. The federal minister, however, called for revising fines upward and making the wildlife protection laws more stringent to put an end to the smuggling of wildlife.

The smuggling of turtles or any wildlife species, he said, might seem a soft crime but its financial implications are huge.

“Saving and protecting the wildlife species, mainly turtles, is exactly like saving our children and is must for avoiding any imbalance in the biodiversity ecosystems.

Meanwhile, some 12 agenda items came under discussion during the meeting, which included: progress on drafting of rules for the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act (TCWFF) 2012, listing of new species for CITES, ban on export of parrots/parakeets, ban on commercial export of reptiles and mammals, community-based trophy hunting programme, review of wildlife import and export fee schedule ad registration free for wildlife traders and trophy hunting outfitters, import of big cats by the private sector, smuggling of freshwater turtles and other species from Pakistan and efforts of Sindh wildlife department and others.

The matters regarding draft rules for the Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora (TCWFF) Act-2012, which has been prepared by the International Union for Conservation Network (IUCN-Pakistan), remained priority agenda at the meeting.

The Country Representative of the INCN – Pakistan, Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, briefed the meeting about the progress on the draft TCWFF Act-2102 and Modus operandi for its implementation across all the provinces.

The meeting also decided that TCWFF Act-2102 will be sent to the provincial wildlife departments for review and they will send back to the ministry with input/suggestions, if any, regarding the Act in next 30 days or by June 27.

An important decision was also taken at the meeting with the backing of the Senator Mushahidullah Khan to form a four-member committee that will decide on different matters including role, functions and nature of formation of the CITES management authority and CITES scientific authorities in all provinces that will work as scientific advisory bodies for the former (CITES management authority at the federal level) on matters regarding issuance of the import/export certificates for fauna and flora.

The four-member committee will comprise representatives from the climate change ministry, law ministry, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa wildlife departments.

Khan and Federal Climate Change Secretary, Arif Ahmed Khan, supported the suggestion put forward by Sindh wildlife conservator Javed Ahmed Mahar that a centralized system for gene sampling , gene bank and DNA barcodes of wildlife species should be established, which will help the wildlife officers, custom officers to control the wildlife smuggling.

The Sindh wildlife conservator also highlighted that although there is uniformity in all provincial forest laws, there is no uniformity in wildlife laws and efforts are needed for making the provincial wildlife laws uniform for effective coordination in checking the wildlife smuggling.

The federal climate change secretary welcomed the suggestion of the Sindh wildlife conservator and proposed a joint meeting of provinces in this regard to deliberate on this important proposal and see if it could be actualized.

“The ministry will write a letter to the provincial chief secretaries in this regard to mull over the proposal for hammering out uniform wildlife laws in all provinces,” the secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, told the meeting.

Representatives of the provincial wildlife departments also gave a detailed briefing to the Senator Mushahidullah Khan about their initiatives, respectively, taken by them for controlling smuggling of wildlife species and their conservation and protection.

Earlier, Inspector General of Forest at the Climate Chjange Ministry, Syed Mahmood Nasir, said that the wildlife trade is any sale or exchange of wild animal and plant resources by people.

“This can involve live animals and plants or a diverse range of products needed or prized by humans – including skins, medicinal ingredients, tourist curios, timber, fish and other food products. Most wildlife trade is probably within national borders, but there is a large volume of wildlife in trade internationally, he elaborated.

He said that customs departments can also play a pivotal role to control international trade in environmentally sensitive goods regulated by the Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and help in eradicating their illegal trafficking of wildlife species, which is causing significant loss of revenue to national exchequer, but also disturbing the ecosystem in the country

The meeting was attended by senior officials of all provincial wildlife and forest departments, representatives of non-governmental organization, independent wildlife conservators and rights activists and advocacy experts.