KARACHI, Nov 8: The international organization controlling trade, protection and other affairs related to endangered flora and fauna species has doubled Pakistan’s quota for trophy hunting of markhor, it is learnt.
According to sources, the decision was announced at the 12th conference of the parties to the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) that was held at Santiago, Chile.
They said that Pakistan government had requested Cites for an increase in the quota, earlier fixed as six. The request, they added, had been accepted after a debate on it at the Cites meeting and the members agreed to raise the quota for trophy hunting of markhors to 12.
The Cites also decides the number and protected hunting areas while the allocated quota is distributed locally by the federal government keeping in view the number of trophy-sized animals in specified areas.
Explaining the rules, the sources said that the trophy hunting of markhor could only be carried out at community- controlled and monitored protected areas which, in Pakistan, are located in Balochistan, the NWFP and Northern Areas.
The licence fee for the hunting of markhor, an endangered species and recently declared the ‘national animal’ of the country, is $25,000 (Rs1.5 million approximately). Out of the amount, 80 per cent is distributed among the respective communities while the rest is retained by the government.
The markhor population, classified as Sulaiman, Astore, Pirpanjal, etc., makes a total of a few thousands and their isolated pockets of concentration are spread over the mountainous ranges of Astore, Nanga Parbat, Sulaiman, Chiltan, Torgarh, Chitral, Dir, Gilgit, Kohistan, etc.
The sources said that the trophy hunting was introduced to control the over-exploitation of the animal by communities. Justifying the concept of trophy hunting, they said that there were certain difficulties in connecting hunting with conservation of animals, particularly the endangered species. Trophy hunting, they pointed out, was being practised as a tool in the replenishment of the threatened species.
Before granting a hunting permission, a survey is conducted jointly by community members, government officials and the non-governmental organization working for the environment, such as the WWF and IUCN, to ascertain the animal’s total population and the number of trophy sized animals. The figures are then provided to the federal government which eventually distributes the hunting quota.
The sources said that all management strategies for the conservation of natural resources, including the wildlife, have to be linked with the needs of the local population.
They said that the trophy hunting scheme was launched with view to provide an alternate source of income to the communities because it was extremely difficult to prevent the communities from hunting the wildlife, more appropriately the endangered species, when they used to earn from hunting the animals, selling their skins and avail their meat as food.
Another reason, they added, was that the local communities’ hunters used to kill animals indiscriminately. They never care for the targeted animal’s gender, age or size and this behaviour led to the depletion of the species.
Mentioning the achievements, the sources said that communities now were getting a substantial income in the shape of 80 per cent of the the total licence fees revenue and this had persuaded them to protect the animals by themselves as the species had become the base of their income which they had been using for the community development and other other welfare projects. The sources revealed that the trophy hunting had resulted in a sharp decline in the indiscriminate hunting of animals besides restricting the over all animal killing trend.
The Sindh government, after a break of over a decade, has recently resumed the issuance of trophy hunting licences for the Sindh Ibex which are hunted in the game reserves around Kirthar National Park. The sources point out that the funds thus generated, however, go to the government coffers and the community did not have a say in the utilization of these funds that should have been meant for the community’s benefits.