Conservationist Dr Syed Yahya Shah was given the Syed Asad Ali Conservation Award for his work to preserve ecosystems and wild animal populations in Gilgit-Baltistan, at a ceremony organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Pakistan on Wednesday.
Dr Shah introduced the trophy hunting scheme in Gilgit-Baltistan, under which hunters must buy a licence costing $25,000 (Rs2.14 million) to hunt endangered animals. The revenue from selling licences goes to the local community.
Three Living Planet awards were also handed out at the ceremony at Ali Institute to conservationists that had received funding from the WWF under its Small Grants Programme. National College of Arts graduate Ali Ijaz received an award for his documentary Missing Vultures. The 20-minute film, shot in Changa Manga and interior Sindh, explains the causes of the decline in the vulture population and its effect on the ecosystem.
Ijaz, 27, told The Express Tribune that he was given Rs150,000 by the WWF to make the documentary, which took two months to shoot and four months to edit. “Pakistan’s rich biodiversity goes unnoticed. I would love to continue documenting endangered animals,” he said.
Ijaz said he had ideas for three more wildlife documentaries, including one about leopards in Abbottabad and one about fresh water turtles, which are hunted and exported to China. “Their diminishing numbers pose a threat to the ecosystem,” he said.
Missing Vultures earlier won the best documentary award at the Alpavirama South Asian Short Film Festival 2011. It was also featured at the Japan Film Festival 2011 and Al Jazeera Documentary festival 2011 in Doha. Dr Khalil Ahmed and Nilofar, a student, of Karakoram International University also won Living Planet awards for two projects. The first involved raising awareness to conserve biodiversity in the Ishkoman Valley, where Ibex deer are becoming scarce due to hunting.
The other was about identifying the snow leopard population in Gigit-Baltistan. During their research, which lasted over a year, they found only five snow leopards.
The awards were handed out by WWF Vice President Emeritus Syed Babar Ali and Dr Saeed Elahi, an MPA and the convener of the environment committee of the PML-N. WWF-Pakistan director general Ali Habib also attended the ceremony, which concluded with a slide presentation of the award winning projects. The WWF’s small-grants programme provides small loans of up to Rs300,000 for research and conservation projects. It funded 36 projects in 2010 and 15 in 2011 so far. The awards started in 2000 in memory of Syed Asad Ali, a celebrated conservationist who passed away in 1999.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.
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