KARACHI, Nov 22: Federal and provincial wildlife authorities were caught napping as nine endangered animals were brought into the country by air from Europe without the required permissions, rendering the ‘import’ illegal despite the importers’ claims otherwise, Dawn has learnt.

Reportedly, Irfan Ahmed of the Karachi-based Osaka Traders Zoological Supplies brought in the tigers (Panthera Tigris) and lions (Panthere Leo) from the Czech Republic. Sources says that the nine-cage consignment, weighing over 700 kilogrammes and comprised of three male tigers, two female tigers, two male lions and two female, landed at Quaid-i-Azam International Airport’s air freight unit in the first week of June. It was cleared through customs immediately, although one of the animals was found dead during the inspection carried out by customs’ personnel. While federal and provincial authorities remained unaware of the ‘import’, the animals were immediately relocated to a private facility in Punjab.

The trade and international movement of endangered species is monitored by the Switzerland-based Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) secretariat. The law required the importer of the consignment to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Islamabad-based National Council for the Conservation of Wildlife, which handles CITES matters in the country. In addition, since the animals were landing in Karachi, permission should also have been sought from the Sindh Wildlife Department.

However, the importers obtained none of the permissions mandatory for making the consignment’s entry into Pakistan legal.

The animals were purchased from the Animal Source Czechia s.r.o., Zajezd 5, 273 43 p. Bustehrad, Czech Republic, in the first week of June. The tigers were purchased at $950 a head, while each lion cost $600 in transaction amounting to $7,150.

Upon the consignment’s arrival in Karachi, customs personnel did not accept the declared value of the animals and carried out a reassessment. Subsequently, the tigers were assessed at Rs130,000 per head and the lions at Rs100,000 per head. The total value of the consignment was put at Rs1.05 million and various duties and taxes amounting to Rs118,650 were levied, which the ‘importers’ paid on June 6, 2007.

‘No permission sought’

When contacted by Dawn, sources in the NCCW said that no permission regarding the import of the animals had been issued to either Irfan Ahmed or Osaka Traders during the current year. In fact, they said, neither party had even applied for the NOC required to bring in the animals.

Similarly, sources in the Sindh Wildlife Department also said that no permission had been granted to either Irfan Ahmed or Osaka Traders to bring the animals into the province. Pointing out that they had learnt about the animals’ entry into the country from this reporter, they said that “no one has even applied for permission, so the question of issuing an NOC does not arise.”

Asked about the animal consignment, Sindh Wildlife Secretary Mahboob Alam Ansari said that he would ask the wildlife conservator to provide Dawn with the relevant details. However, conservator Ghulam Rasool Channa refused to give any information and, in fact, looked surprised when asked about the so-called ‘import.’

Meanwhile, repeated attempts to reach Irfan Ahmed by telephone met with failure. However, his father Zameer Ahmed Khan said that they had all the required permissions from Switzerland as well as the government of Pakistan. He added that they had been in the animal import business for a long time and provided specimens to various zoos in the country.

This shady animal ‘import’ is the second case in the past few months when local authorities remained unaware that endangered animals were being brought into the country in total disregard of the law. Earlier, another consignment of lions and tigers were smuggled in from South Africa and the relevant authorities in Pakistan came to know of the case only when they were approached by the CITES secretariat. Though the animal traffickers in that case – Mansoor Ahmed of Pscittacine Agricultural Research Centre (PARC) – have now been identified, no punitive action has been taken against the violators of the law, who are said to enjoy cordial relations with top wildlife officials.

Meanwhile, conservators have urged the authorities to institute a high-level probe to ascertain how animals are being ‘imported’ in blatant disregard of the law, and to take exemplary action against officials found to have been involved in the trafficking.

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