Against the backdrop of the controversy over the Houbara bustard, it is refreshing to learn the news coming out of Bahawalpur in which the provincial Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries Department has professed its commitment towards the preservation of Lal Suhanra National Park. The preservation encompasses both, the park’s natural habitat and our animal and critter friends who are inhabitants of the park. In a rare display of concern for the natural beauty in Pakistan, we welcome the initiative as it has been urgently needed, not just for Lal Suhanra Park but at all 29 national parks spanning the provinces.
Pakistan’s nature and wildlife has attracted domestic and foreign visitors for decades. With tourism gaining momentum in the country, it is a laudable step to begin preservation efforts at national parks. Lal Suhanra is, indeed, an ancient gem as it existed pre-Partition and is considered our oldest national park, a protected territory for the conservation of the Cholistan Desert wildlife. When it comes to endangered species and species that are approaching the endangered category, Pakistan has an extensive list, including the markhor, which is our national animal. The common leopard and the snow leopard are two priority species for the World Wildlife Fund Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan). Meanwhile, the citizens, primarily village dwellers, continue murdering these species, lacking awareness of the disturbance to the ecosystem it causes. City dwellers are likewise culpable, mercilessly pelting stones at stray animals or terrorising and firing weapons into flocks of birds. The lack of empathy often observed is criminal and psychopathological. Awareness will go a long way in augmenting the efforts by provincial wildlife departments and the WWF-Pakistan to protect natural habitats and wildlife. A good starting point to supplant the apathy of people towards our environment is to begin with building empathy for all living species and imparting an understanding of the significance of protecting their homes.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2016.
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