EVERY year, the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Wildlife Department auctions various licences to both locals and foreigners for hunting the markhors and other rare species. All these auctions for licence-to-kill are given against a handsome amount of money that the hunters pay.
Recently, a trophy hunting programme got started in GB where the licences for hunting Astore markhor, blue sheep and Himalayan ibex were granted.
It must be noted that all these three species are rare, having a limited population. Similarly, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, the Astore markhor is classified as a vulnerable species, and the blue sheep is classified as ‘near threatened’. These species already face numerous issues pertaining to their population decline, climate-oriented challenges, and loss of habitat.
On the other hand, some of the hunters use weapons which is against the rules set by the relevant department. In some cases, their brutal shots kill the young and pregnant species, which further endangers the existence of such rare animals. The availability of such rare and beautiful species in Pakistan makes us unique in the world, and, to kill them for a mere chunk of money violates their rights enshrined both in the Constitution and international law.
Forests and wildlife should be protected under Article 38(2) of the Constitution. However, things are bleak in the country when we take a cursory glance at wildlife preservation. We have this so-called ‘trophy hunting’ programme, which is against the rights of vulnerable animals, and is a blatant cruelty. The state needs to take some pragmatic measures to save the unique recognition of Pakistan from extinction.
As far as the money is concerned that the wildlife department receives from the hunters, and utilises it for infrastructural projects, the state, in collaboration with international financial institutions, should provide GB with financial assistance. This approach can eliminate GB’s dependence on rich hunters for collecting revenue.
It is time we prioritised giving due importance to the unique species that we have, and launched a nationwide campaign to highlight their significance as they are the national assets of Pakistan.
Shehzad Ahmed Brohi
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2023