KARACHI: “We were expecting a lot [of wildlife] to see at the Keenjhar and Haleji lakes during our visit to these water bodies last December. But we could hardly spot a few birds. It was sad.”

That’s how Italian artist Maurizio Boscheri described his feelings in an interview when asked if he had a real encounter with Pakistani wildlife, the subject of his artworks currently on display at the Mohatta Palace Museum.

Titled Wildly Ours: Past, Present and Future of Pakistani Wildlife, the exhibition focuses on country’s seriously threatened wildlife. This explains why most paintings of the artist, who is visiting Pakistan for the second time, have been created with the help of images provided by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan.

“The birds [at Keenjhar Lake] seemed frightened, as they were being shot down by hunters. We also spotted a man in a boat showing off a freshly shot bird as a trophy,” said Boscheri aided by Dr Gianluca Rubagotti, the Italian consul general, who interpreted his viewpoint.

Dr Rubagotti also accompanied the artist and show curator Mario Liberali on their last year’s trip to Thatta and was equally disappointed to see the conditions at the lakes as December is the peak season for the migratory birds, which once visited these water bodies in large numbers.

“Maybe the birds are so threatened [by frequent hunting] that they no longer visit these places. I think there is a need to act before it’s too late,” said Boscheri while expressing the hope that if favourable conditions were created for them at the lakes, birds could return in five to 10 years.

“This happened in Italy after some areas [destroyed by human disturbance] were rehabilitated. Now these places have returned to their past glory to an extent,” he said.

The artist, who has extensively displayed his work in and outside his home country, also had the experience of seeing animal life in captivity in Pakistan on his visit to the city zoo last year.

“My painting titled Strong and Fast depicted the blackbucks that I saw in the Karachi zoo. It was an amazing sight,” he noted.

The other animals whose paintings are on display included snow leopard (endangered), leopard (critically endangered), tiger (extinct), various species of pheasants (least concern), markhor (near threatened), houbara bustard (vulnerable), common leopard (critically endangered) and chukor (least concern).

Boscheri, now in his early 60s, took to painting wildlife and nature in 1997 after retiring as a sales manager.

“At the age of 42, I decided to start a new life; quit my job and paint wildlife. I have always been a nature lover and have travelled a lot. So I thought I should express whatever I have been feeling and observing while being with the nature,” he explained.

About the painting background depicted by colourful motifs, butterflies, flowers and little birds, he said: “It lends a kind of vibrancy and softness to the whole painting.”

He plans to engage in a number of activities during his two-week visit to Karachi. The activities included painting a mural in the Airport area and holding workshops at educational institutions, he said.

“I want to paint more on Pakistan and see its wildlife,” he added.

A joint venture of the Italian consulate with the museum authorities and the WWF, the show, according to Dr Rubagotti, aims at educating the public especially the youth about the wonderful wildlife that once existed in Pakistan or now survives (in hostile conditions) and needed to be conserved.

The show will continue till August 28.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2016