Private operators misusing trophy hunting scheme

Published March 14, 2021
Trophy hunting has been a success story in Pakistan but private as well as some registered trophy hunting operators are failing it by offering foreign hunters a menu of off wild animals that are endangered and need to be protected. — Dawn/File
Trophy hunting has been a success story in Pakistan but private as well as some registered trophy hunting operators are failing it by offering foreign hunters a menu of off wild animals that are endangered and need to be protected. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Trophy hunting has been a success story in Pakistan but private as well as some registered trophy hunting operators are failing it by offering foreign hunters a menu of off wild animals that are endangered and need to be protected, Dawn learnt through sources in the World Wildlife Fund and the Ministry of Climate Change.

In theory, trophy hunting presents many advantages. If correctly regulated, the proceeds aim to support endangered species though many would be outraged by the idea of why animals are killed.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said his office supported regulated hunting as a positive step for conservation and helping local communities.

Some of the animals that can be legally trophy hunted include species of mountain goats such as the Punjab urial, Himalayan blue sheep, the Afghan urial and the Sindh ibex. Trophy hunters are required to purchase expensive permits to shoot these animals. Every year in Pakistan, trophy hunters spend $80,000 to $100,000 plus and the permit is auctioned to the highest bidder.

They offer foreign hunters a menu of off wild, endangered animals that need to be protected, official says

The fact that Pakistan offers hunters the opportunity to kill some of the most iconic animals is not the only reason why it is becoming an attractive country to hunt. It is also because outfitters are offering foreign hunters even off-limits endangered species. Since last decade, outfitters have been arranging to kill the nilgai, Indian hog deer or para, black bucks or Indian antelopes, chinkara or India gazelle, Kennion gazelle and rare species such as the golden jackal and the Asian jungle cat, animals that are strictly off limits, said a source in WWF.

“Pakistan is a fantastic destination for mountain hunters. This country is home to three species of markhor, the holy grail of wild goats. There are two species of ibex - Himalayan and Sindh, plus a variety of sheep including Himalayan blue sheep, blanford, Afghan and Punjab urials. On top of these magnificent creatures, some often overlooked animals include hog deer, two species of gazelle, varmints like jackal and Asian wildcat, along with partridge shooting, whatever might be possible, and you have the makings of the ultimate hunting destinations,” a hunter showed off after registering his trophies with Safari Club International (SCI). SCI is a platform that claims to ensure freedom to hunt as well as conserve wildlife around the world.

Another foreign hunter after registering his trophies with a similar platform called the The Hunting Report, boasted: “We finished up the hunt at a pleasant camp on the Indus River, northeast of Karachi, where we hunted free-range hog deer, gazelle and wild boar. This is a scenic wooded area with plenty of game. Nilgai, black buck and Jackal are also available there.”

In April, 2018, US Fish and Wildlife Service detained some trophies, which were exported from Karachi without export permits. Copy of a fake NOC was provided to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for clearance of trophies such as blanford urial, Punjab urial, Himalayan ibex, Sindh ibex and for three illegally hunted chinkara gazelle, hog deer and golden jackal. Documents seen by Dawn show that the Provincial Wildlife Department, Pakistan Customs and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) were requested to investigate the matter. However, the concerned departments did not respond.

“And this is the case that we know. Either people in the customs are not doing their jobs or these trophies are being illegally exported in diplomatic baggage. No export permits have ever been issued for chinkara, hog deer, Asian wildcat, jackal, black bucks or the nilgai,” a source in the Ministry of Climate Change said.

“Some of these endangered animals do not get the headlines like the markhor or the ibex but their populations are plummeting,” the official said.

It is not only how the half a dozen or so outfitters manage to arrange hunting for these rare exotic animals. It is also how the outfitters go overboard when arranging the so-called adventure for hunting parties that sometimes involves misappropriation of government resources. These include police escorts from the airport to the hotel and to hunting grounds.American hunters Jason Bruce and Renee Snider wrote on the Facebook page of an operator, how he killed a “non-exportable” Ladakh urial but the local operator, after many failed attempts, arranged for the permits. Canadian Jim Shockey had praised his outfitter for, “Having all his ducks in a row for the government licences including export permits.”

Juraj Gyimesi from Hungry has been hunting in Pakistan since 2008, and praised his outfitter for surprising him, “By offering me a bonus hunt for free for animals such as wild boars, golden jackals, jungle cats and partridge.”

When contacted, Malik Amin Aslam said trophy hunting was a conservation concept. “Animals that have reached the end of their lives and are 13 years or 14 years old, for example the urial lives for 15 years, are put out for trophy hunting. While the government keeps about 20 per cent of the money generated from the auction, the remaining proceeds go to development of the communities, which in return become custodians of the habitat and their animals and protect them from poaching,” he said.

He argued that trophy hunting had proved successful in Gilgit-Baltistan context where markhors, ibex and the Marco Polo sheep were almost extinct but were now thriving. It was all linked with trophy hunting, he said.

“There are few outfitters offering a menu of animals to be hunted and we take strict action. We are the custodians of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES regulates trade of any animal trophy. Illegal hunt gets clamped down by communities that see their assets being destroyed. If a hunter kills illegally, the communities become the warriors to stop such hunts,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2021

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