ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) confiscated a fully grown Indian rock python that is threatened due to the loss of its natural habitat and illegal capture.
About eight-and-a-half-foot-long, the reptile was confiscated from a snake charmer.
According to IWMB, the India rock python is one of the two biggest species of pythons in this region that can grow as long as nine feet. The other variety of python found in the region is the Burmese python.
Their habitat includes the temperate scrub forests of southern Azad Kashmir near Sialkot, Neelum, Jhelum, all the way to the Margalla Hills.
There have been no live sightings of the Indian rock python in the Margalla Hills National Park and a road kill three years ago was the only evidence that this variety can be found in the hills.
“Indian rock pythons are very shy creatures. We do not know if the road killed rock python was the last of the species or one of four or six or 10.
But it is an iconic species and a huge snake,” said IWMB Chairman Dr Anis Rahman.
He lamented that almost all wildlife was threatened in Pakistan and the rock python was no exception.
“Over the years the protection status of our national parks and the wildlife had deteriorated to a point where wild animals are under extreme stress due to loss of habitat as a result of the increase in population and poaching or over-hunting. And everybody wants to kill a snake without realising its significance in the eco-system.
“Thirdly, if they have value, they are captured illegally. As you are aware, trade of wildlife species is the third biggest money making industry in the world after drugs and human smuggling,” said Dr Rahman.
The python was confiscated under the Islamabad Wildlife Protection Act which prohibits trading in endangered and threatened species that are protected under the law.
The board is now in touch with
scientists, both local and international, on how to return it to its most suitable habitat.
“We want to release it in an environment where it can live the rest of its life in freedom away from human footprints, and where there is sufficient water,” Dr Rahman told Dawn.
There is no study on the Indian rock python in Margalla Hills or Pakistan, according to the official.
He also lamented that despite the help and assistance offered to such individuals as the snake charmer, they refused to accept.
“The board has the resources to offer snake charmers, bear handlers and other captors of wildlife alternative means of earning livelihood. But we were truly disappointed when the department offered a bear handler financial assistance. He simply refused to accept any help from the wildlife board. Such individuals have so much support from the much powerful people who deal in the illegal trade of wildlife that they do not accept any help,” Dr Rahman said.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2019