Our willingness to dispatch important elements of our heritage overseas is frightening. We appear to have no qualms about parting with items that rightfully belong to our soil and to the generations of our future. Four gazelles dispatched from Bahawalpur in small baskets have been confiscated at the Karachi Railway Station after a tip-off to the Sindh Wildlife Department. The smugglers themselves, who used false names to attempt the transaction, have not been apprehended, though an effort to do so continues. The rescued animals are currently being kept at the Wildlife Department office and will eventually be released at the Kirthar National Park.
Of greater significance than the fate of the gazelles, which have fortunately been saved before they could be whisked away, is the larger issue of wildlife as a whole and what we can do to save it. Experts say that there were once huge stocks of gazelles in Bahawalpur, Thar and Khairpur. These have now dwindled to a point where the antelope, with its delicate colouring and natural beauty, is nearing extinction. A key reason is that despite being a protected species, it is smuggled abroad, most often to the Middle East where people keep them as pets. Indeed, even at home, the gazelles are kept in private zoos alongside all kinds of other exotic species.
What we need then is to create more awareness about better protecting our faunas. Poaching and smuggling have destroyed huge stocks of animals, leaving us with an increasingly empty and barren land. This is a tragedy. It can be prevented only if people across the country work to protect what little we have left of our wildlife. We owe this to our country. Allowing hunting for foreign delegations, who visit the country annually to shoot species, such as the Houbara Bustard, needs to be stopped and we need to tighten and enforce laws that allow people to easily obtain licences to keep protected animals as pets. Only if such strategies are developed can we hope to save wildlife and stop incidents of the kind seen at Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.