ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Wildlife Department on Saturday released another rescued pangolin into its natural habitat in Rawalpindi district.

The baby pangolin was rescued from Murree after locals reported seeing a dragon-like creature to the authorities, District Wildlife official, Punjab Wildlife Department Rizwana Aziz told Dawn.

“Sadly pangolins are still perceived as grave diggers that eat dead bodies. They walk strange and look like dinosaurs also,” Ms Aziz said. She was contacted by authorities to come and collect the animal.

This was the second pangolin, which is enlisted as an endangered animal in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), rescued within a span of five to six months.

Pakistan has lost more than 80pc of its pangolins due to their illegal killing for their scales and meat, said senior director (biodiversity) World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In the last decade, starting from 2013-14, pangolins were hunted for their scales indiscriminately.

According to Ms Aziz, pangolin populations were improving and were regularly sighted.

The official also elaborated upon how her office had stepped up its crackdown against illegal bird sellers. Since July, Punjab Wildlife department confiscated and released 1,000 wild sparrows, mainas and baya weavers that were sold illegally on the streets of Rawalpindi.

Even on Saturday, when markets are closed due to the lockdown, the department apprehended a person selling sparrows illegally.

“The number of illegal bird sellers in the streets of the twin cities has increased to the extent that we have been ordered by the prime minister’s house to look into the problem,” Ms Aziz said.

The crackdown on illegal bird sellers started in July and has been prioritised over other issues by the wildlife department.

“These birds are not sold as food. Instead bird sellers walk in the streets carrying some 50 to 80 birds in cages, attracting and deceiving passersby by telling them that releasing these birds would lift all curses. People end up paying anywhere between Rs50 to Rs100 to release one wild sparrow or baya weaver,” Ms Aziz said.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2021

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