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PESHAWAR: The World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) has expressed serious reservations about the recent announcement of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department regarding invitation of bids for trophy hunting of the common leopard and Himalayan black bear.

In a statement issued here on Thursday, the WWF-Pakistan objected to the proposal for the trophy hunting of these species due to their conservation status and a wide array of threats to their existence.

It said currently, both common leopard and Himalayan black bear were listed as the critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s country assessment for Pakistan.

The WWF-Pakistan said in the recent years, trophy hunting had become a subject of controversy and criticism, especially regarding the species, which were wide ranging such as large carnivores.

WWF-Pakistan says it can challenge plan of wildlife department in court

It said in the current situation, managing conflict between human beings and wildlife was crucial, and that required conservation initiatives such as compensation and insurance of livestock and its management, prey-based improvement, protection of habitats, increase in protected areas and community awareness rather than trophy hunting.

It is worth mentioning that the provincial wildlife department issued permits to foreigners for trophy hunting of markhor every year and that the specific amount earned from the trophy hunting was given to the local communities.

WWF-Pakistan director (species conservation) Dr Uzma Khan said the efforts needed to be geared towards conservation initiatives as there was no dedicated conservation effort for both these species.

She said the survival of the common leopard and black bear would be even more challenging due to the increasing pressure on the forest resources with a growing human population.

Dr Uzma said the trophy hunting of the herd living markhor and ibex couldn’t be compared with a wide-ranging solitary predator, where one couldn’t select an animal to be hunted or have correct population estimates.

“The WWF suggests that the provincial wildlife department should develop a well-thought-out human-wildlife conflict mitigation programme instead of trophy hunting with increasing protected areas and the natural prey base,” she said.

The WWF said the subject of trophy hunting of the common leopard and black bear could be challenged in the Peshawar High Court as there was a great concern for the protection of both species leopards and black bears.

It said in order to tackle the issue, concrete measures should be taken to conserve the two species.

The WWF also offered assistance to the wildlife department in organising a consultation process to address human-wildlife conflict.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2016