‘Much more needs to be done for conserving wildlife’
From 1970 till 2012, nearly 58 percent of all vertebrates including fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals have been wiped out directly as a result of human appetite and activities. If the prevailing trend continues, by 2020, the planet would have lost two-thirds of its wildlife species.
“This can only be reversed if we accelerate and intensify our actions and investments to support wildlife conservation in the long run,” said Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan in a statement issued in connection with World Wildlife Day 2017.
Human activities and the accompanying use of non-renewable natural resources have grown so dramatically that since the mid-20th century, environmental conditions that fostered our development and growth have started to deteriorate.
Khan said WWF-Pakistan was making all possible efforts to restore and conserve endangered wildlife species particularly freshwater and marine cetaceans, Indus river dolphins, turtles, gyps vultures, and snow and common leopards among others.
In this regard, he also mentioned the successful breeding of critically endangered Oriental white-backed vultures in captivity at the Changa Manga Vulture Conservation Centre, Lahore. This was the second year of successful breeding of the species in Pakistan where two healthy white-backed vulture chicks hatched in January.
Khan emphasised the need to understand the scale of human impact on the vanishing population of wild species and to develop a robust mechanism to address the issue.
This year’s theme of World Wildlife Day 2017 encourages youth around the world to rally together to address the major threats to wildlife including habitat degradation, pollution, over-exploitation, illicit trafficking and climate change.
Khan said that the theme for 2017 was based on utilising the vital role of the youth in conservation efforts. It also provides, he added, an opportunity to engage and empower the youth who can make a significant contribution towards species conservation in the country.
In this regard, WWF-Pakistan under its School Outreach Programme and Youth Development Programme engages more than 125,000 students and teachers across the country. The programmes focus mainly on making students and our future generations more environmentally conscious.
Ali Dehlavi, WWF-P’s Regional Head for Sindh and Balochistan, shared that habitat loss, environmental degradation, illegal trade and climate change were among the most alarming challenges faced by wildlife in Pakistan. The observed decline in species populations, he said, was inextricably linked to the state of ecosystems that sustain them. Destruction of these ecosystems represents a risk not just to resident plants and wildlife, but to humans as well, he added.
Hence, Dehlavi said, WWF-Pakistan, in coordination with relevant organisations, was implementing various initiatives to address these challenges and work for the revival of diverse ecosystems across the country.
He further elaborated that as the youth were the future custodians of wildlife, they must develop an interest and take steps for protection of wild species.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, WWF-P’s Technical Adviser for Marine Fisheries, shared that the organisation was actively working for the conservation of marine animals, which are an important part of the coastal and offshore ecosystems.
In this context, crew based observer programmes and awareness campaigns were initiated under the Marine Programme of WWF-Pakistan, which have achieved significant success in the of conservation of marine megafauna.
He said that over the past three years, 48 whale sharks, 23 manta rays, 10 sting rays, 15 sea snakes, four dolphins, three guitarfishes, three baleen whales, one beaked whale, 11 sunfish, four brown boobies, four diamond squids and more than 20,000 marine turtles have been safely released.
Khan stated that a rare Arabian humpback whale was sighted on around 47 occasions in the offshore waters of Pakistan recently. This, he said, indicated that this rarest mammal was also found in Pakistani waters.
He further pointed out that for conservation of sharks, whose population is under extreme threat, WWF-Pakistan had approached Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to impose a ban on carrying shark fins, as done by many other international airlines have already done.
WWF-Pakistan, in collaboration with the Sindh Forest and Wildlife Department, also organised an event at Lungh Lake, Larkana which was attended by more than 100 people including students from Government High School, Larkana, officials from the forest and wildlife departments and WWF-Pakistan. The participants planted more than 300 saplings of local trees and released around 70 birds confiscated by the Sindh Wildlife Department.