The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and Punjab Wildlife Department (PWD), during an intelligence-based information raid, have seized over a dozen illegally acquired pelts and trophies of endangered wildlife species from a taxidermist in the Sadiqabad area of Rawalpindi.
PWD Assistant Director Rizwana Aziz said that the department in a major operation foiled an attempt to smuggle skins, horns and trophies of wild animals and birds worth Rs5 million abroad and arrested a suspect identified as Zafar Iqbal, a taxidermist by profession.
Rizwana Aziz said they have seized four pelts of leopards, a tiger, a puma, a hog deer, an musk deer, two pelts of chinkara deer, one of nilgai, three of cheetal deer, an ibex and a markhor and their trophies besides, antlers of a mountain goat. Moreover, stuffed wild birds including a white peacock, three chakors, and five pheasants were recovered in the raid at the taxidermist's shop in Khanna Pul area falling in the vicinity of Sadiqabad police station.
Iqbal had been poaching wild animals for the past several years, besides smuggling their skins in and out of the country, the assistant director said. She said they have filed a case against the suspects and the police will catch the rest of the network.
Meanwhile, an IWMB official said the operation was launched after local sources of the board informed that a local leopard was hunted illegally in the Margalla Hills National Park and its hide was available with a taxidermist based in Rawalpindi.
According to the official the taxidermist was based in the Khanna Pul area falling in the vicinity of Sadiqabad and was working for a long time selling the stuffed skins of wildlife species.
The IWMB official said that after gathering proper details the PWD was approached to facilitate the action against the violators as the area was falling under their jurisdiction.
It was underground business being carried out in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad where the poachers were using previous hides to make taxidermies, he added.
To a question, he said a taxidermist itself could not be held involved in poaching and hunting of wildlife species as per the law rather he had his expertise in preserving the pelts of the species which the poachers utilise for their purpose and business.
He added that the initiative was launched to discourage the illegal and unregistered taxidermy of wildlife species that were banned or declared endangered by the wildlife departments of the respective provinces.
"All taxidermists will be registered with their respective wildlife departments to allow them a controlled practice of preserving the pelts of only those wild animals whose proper record and authorized status for hunting or source to be provided by its possessor," the IWMB official said.
With additional input by APP
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2021.