Scorpion seizure: involvement of post office employee raises eyebrows
KARACHI: While the wildlife department is yet to identify the black scorpion species confiscated in large numbers the other day at the airport, the fact that the Hong Kong-bound consignment was booked through the Mirpurkhas post office and brought by a post-office employee to the export cargo section has set off alarm, sources told Dawn on Wednesday. It was the first seizure of scorpions in the province, though reports of their illegal hunting and trade have been circulating for the past few years.The accused identified as Abdur Raheem Azimee, a resident of Mirpurkhas, is still at large. “The post-office employee was allowed to leave after submitting its identification papers,” said game officer Rasheed Ahmed Khan.
To question about the involvement of a post-office employee in the case, he said investigation was in progress and it’s premature to say anything with confidence. “The package was labelled as a gifted item which raised suspicion of the anti-narcotics force. Usually, consignments have specific mention about their content,” he said. The black scorpions, he pointed out, had many sub-species, some of them were listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) while others were not. “It’s important to identify the particular species because it will determine the amount of fine in case the accused gets arrested. Otherwise, the case will be taken to the court,” he explained.
Scorpions, he said, was not a protected species but since Pakistan was a signatory to the CITES, offenders would be fined in case they were trading in species listed in the CITES. At the wildlife department office in Saddar, the 148 black scorpions weighing between 5gm to 15gm are being kept in the same plastic bottles in which they were seized at the airport. The bottles contain some sweet for the scorpions to feed on. “You can see that these bottles got holes to allow the arachnids breathe that they do through their four pairs of book lungs on the underside of their bellies,” he said. “If the case went to the court then we have to take an order from the court for their release in the wild,” he said.
Sources attribute illegal trade of scorpions to increase in demand of these species from some foreign pharmaceutical companies for their use in different medicines especially in preparing anti-cancer compounds. Experts believe that mass hunting of native species like scorpions that feed on certain insects would cause irreparable loss to biodiversity as their resultant shortage may lead to an increase in the population of some other species that are not favourable to the environment.They also called for including the species in the schedule of wildlife ordinance.