LAHORE: Owing to the ever-growing population in Punjab and the accompanying problems of urbanisation, wild animals and creatures in the province are being adversely affected. Problems like the overuse of fertilisers and chemicals for agricultural and industrial purposes, decline of trees in towns, the undue destruction of animals' natural habitat and illegal hunting, among others, have worsened the situation.
In order to tackle the problems and save animals and other creatures from falling prey to extinction, the Punjab Wildlife Department has submitted a draft law to the government wherein it has recommended stricter punishments and fines against illegal hunting.
Taking note of several prevalent discrepancies and nepotism, the wildlife authorities have also proposed a drastic increase in reserve prices for the auction of surplus animals and birds in national parks, safari parks and zoos. According to sources, the United Arab Emirates has announced that it will give 18 lions and tigers, worth Rs100 million, as a gift to the wildlife department of Punjab for the purpose of breeding.
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Within a few days, the 'wild gift' will reach Lahore in a special C-130 plane. It is learnt that the UAE will also bear the customs duty and CAA charges for the wild animals. With support from the UAE government, the wildlife department is also expected to kick-start a breeding programme in Cholistan's area of Chankara. In return, the wildlife department has offered the allotment of a 25-acre land to the UAE in Murree as a breeding farm for falcons. Previously, the UAE had asked Pakistan to allot land for the purpose in Abbottabad.
Per a report prepared by the department, the depletion of the natural environment and general living conditions in Punjab has taken its toll on various species of animals and birds while illegal hunting over the years has also caused a remarkable decline in wildlife.
Considering the gravity of the situation, the wildlife department – through an amendment in section 21 of the Punjab Wildlife Act 2007 – has proposed that the period of maximum imprisonment for illegal hunting should be increased from two to five years, while the minimum imprisonment should be set at three years.
Akin to that, the department suggested the minimum fine to be increased to Rs50,000 from the previous Rs10,000, while the maximum penalty is proposed to be set at Rs100,000. In addition, hunters engaging in violations will have their weapon licenses suspended for a period of up to ten years. The department has also suggested an increase in punishments under section 16 of the Act.
Per the current rules, the minimum and the maximum periods of imprisonment are one and three years, respectively, which are proposed to be increased to three and seven years, respectively. Likewise, the minimum and the maximum fines which currently stand at Rs20,000 and Rs30,000 are proposed to be increased to Rs100,000 and Rs200,000.
Crimes that are not comprehensively covered under the current law may be punished with the maximum imprisonment of ten months and the maximum fine of Rs10,000. The amendment also proposes the increase of the imprisonment period to three months and the maximum fine to Rs50,000.
Sources also revealed that in the past, a few government officers allegedly misused their authorities by selling surplus animals and birds to their favourites on an individual basis. The current government – while restricting sales of surplus animals and birds on an individual basis – has decided to go for open auction with a marked increase in reserve prices, according to which a lion cub up to the age of four months will be initially priced at Rs500,000 instead of Rs100,000. Similarly, the reserve price for a male lion aged over a year will be increased from Rs150,000 to Rs1 million. On the other hand, a female lion of the same age, which was previously auctioned at a price of Rs150,000, will now be increased to Rs1.5 million.
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The reserve price for a male tiger is proposed at Rs4.5 million while that of a female tiger will be set at Rs5 million. the black male deer, which is currently being auctioned at a reserve price of Rs40,000, will be set at Rs10,000, while the price for a female black deer will be increased from Rs60,000 to Rs200,000. Male Chankara, currently going at a reserve price of Rs100,000, will be set at Rs150,000.
Likewise, reserve prices of various wild birds have also been increased between 100 per cent and 300 per cent. The open auction will now start with the new reserve prices.