LAHORE: An undercover survey by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) unearthed 14 social media sites and as many Facebook pages actively involved in the illegal sale of wildlife in Pakistan.
On Thursday, WWF-Pakistan has unveiled a report titled An Assessment of the Scale of Illegal Wildlife Trade in Pakistan. The report is part of a larger project titled Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade by Establishing a National Monitoring Network that Benefits Local Communities and Environment. The initiative has been undertaken with the financial support of USAID through its Small Grants Ambassador Fund Programme.
The report also shows the critical state of mind of people in Pakistan as many are using animal-derived products to drive away evil spirits or enhance their sexual capacity.
“The Illegal trade of wildlife is also the best reflection of poverty and the lack of education among our people,” commented Dr Uzma Khan, a technical advisor of WWF. She said the internet has greatly expanded possibilities of transit crimes and the federation strongly recommended effective action by the Pakistan Broadcast Authority to make the online trade of wildlife illegal.
“Pakistan is home to a wide array of biodiversity, but the lack of effective management and poor law enforcement has resulted in prevalent and often unreported crime related to wildlife,” she commented.
The technical advisor said Pakistan was strategically located with road, air and sea transit routes that are easily accessible and not closely monitored. “Pakistan is known to trade several species of reptiles, mammals and birds apart from timber and medicinal plants. Commercial exploitation of fauna and flora has been on the rise due to an established network of wildlife poachers and dealers. “Overexploitation is the second largest direct threat to species after habitat loss the world over,” she added.
Hamaira Aisha from WWF, in her brief, said she was deeply concerned and provided details of the undercover survey in Pakistan. According to her, the study, compiled through a survey of 288 shops and street vendors across 55 markets in 23 cities. She indicated that while a great deal of the trade was in pets and legal. However, a worryingly large portion of the llegal trade is taking place under the guise of the pet trade and this has threatened several endangered species.
She further said that the criterion used to select cities was based on available literature, and identifying the presence of illegal wildlife trade. Hamaira said such practices took place in bigger metropolises such as Lahore and Karachi, where the demand for exotic pets is higher compared to other cities. Karachi was identified as the host to the highest number of markets and shops dealing in illegal wildlife.
She further said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recognises the illegal wildlife trade as the third largest transnational crime after drugs and human trafficking. The WWF representative said it undermines state authority and socioeconomic development.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2017.