Wildlife bears brunt of climate change, shrinking habitats
By Fakhar Alam
With a fast changing world, weather patterns had become greatly erratic in the South Asian region including Pakistan, adversely affecting biodiversity and wildlife with main impact on its flora due to desertification and climate change.
The evolving weather changes embedded in climate change include erratic rainfalls, storms, intense drought, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, inconsistent snowfalls and extreme
cold conditions have endangered many wildlife species and shrinking habitats in South Asian countries including Pakistan.
Vulnerable to climate change, Pakistan is also facing variations in weather patterns where around 90 different wildlife species were endangered, with some near to extinction.
Dr Mumtaz Malik, former Chief Conservator KP Wildlife Department told APP that out of around 786 wildlife species found in Pakistan 186 include reptiles and 173 mammals, adding about 90 species including 50 mammals, 27 birds and 17 reptiles were placed in categories of endangered, vulnerable and near to extinction.
The endangered species include Siberian Crane, White Backed Vulture, Long-Billed Vulture, Red-Headed Vulture, Saker and Peregrine Falcons and Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Kashmir Grey Langur, Indus Dolphin, Finback Whale, Baluchistan Bear, Musk Deer, Hog Deer, Indian Pangolin, Egyptian Vulture, Green Turtle and Indian Narrow-Headed Turtle are endangered species in Pakistan, he added.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has declared Common Leopard, Snow Leopard, Ladakh Urial, Greater Spotted Eagle, Fish Eagle, Houbara Bustard, Crowned River Turtle, Indian Soft-Shell Turtle and many other mammals, birds and reptiles are vulnerable to extinction.
Dr Mumtaz said thousands of migratory birds including Asian Houbara Bustard, Russian Doves, Ducks and Cranes had started their journey on Green Route Flyway (GRF) on about 13,000 feet height from Mongolia, Siberia and Central Asian Republics (CARs) to Pakistan due to freezing temperature in these countries and would stay here till March-April due to relatively warm weather conditions.
Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Lakki Marwat in KP, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Rahimyar Khan in Punjab and plains in Sindh and Balochistan were winter habitats of the endangered migratory birds including Asian Houbara, Ducks, Cranes, Saker and Peregrine Falcons.
“Houbara is very sensitive and it does not use the route again if it senses any danger on the way during the first journey. In case Houbara loses its mate, it takes three to five years to find a new one,” said Dr Mumtaz.
The bird lays just two eggs in a year and the elder chick kills the younger due to fear of sharing food,” said Dr Mumtaz and added this rivalry between Houbara’s newborns is also one of the main factors gradually decreasing its population.
He said Houbara’s artificial breeding was being carried out in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, but it was very expensive and had to be done under extremely controlled conditions.
The climate change coupled with shrinking habitats of wildlife is posing a serious threat to Houbara in range states of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, UAE and Middle East countries.
Scientifically called as Macqueenii, Hourbara has been declared as endangered migratory bird by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Convention of Migratory
Species of Wild Animal (CMSWA) and International Union Conservation Nature (IUCN).
Wildlife Chief feared that Asian Houbara could become extinct by 2040 if its onslaught, flora depletion and shrinking habitat continues at existing scale in the range countries and necessary measures against climate change were not taken.
The rapid increase in population was exerting extra pressure on forests and converting agriculture lands into housing societies thus forcing indigenous wildlife to move to high altitude pasture zones resultantly facing difficulty to live in cold weather conditions,he added.
The populations of Jackals, Foxes and Mongoose were also reportedly decreasing in areas where poultry forms exist in abundance, he said.
He said the 10 billion trees afforestation project (BTAP) was an important initiative in the green sector and suggested preference to plantation of indigenous species to increase flora and vegetations besides strengthening wildlife habitats.
Gulzar Rehman, Conservator Southern Circle of KP Forest Department told APP that preference was given to indigenous plants in BTAP plantations that resulted increase in wildlife’s flora in 10 new juggles including Garhi Chandan Peshawar established on 32,000 hectares with plantation of a record 3.2 million plants under billion trees afforestation project during 2014-17.
He said over 1.2 billion plants including 600 million on 306,983 hectares through forest enclosures, 200 million on 263,213 hectares man-made and 200 million through farm forestry were planted in the first phase of BTAP.
The Conservator said the new jungles had created breeding grounds for wildlife including falcons, bears, houbara, cranes, bears, common leopard, dove, ducks, monkeys, foxes, wolves, jackals, pigeons, pheasants Monal, Koklas, Kaleej, Tragopan, black & grey partridges and national bird Chakor besides accelerated frequency of migratory birds after enlargement of their habitats in KP.
Faique Khan, Provincial Coordinator, Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Project said a molecular study of black bear had been conducted after obtaining samples of bear’s hairs for extraction of DNA for sequencing of next generation, he said, adding this exercise would help in identification of hereditary and breeds of the wild animal in future conservation programs.
“The survey of indigenous pheasants and Grey Langur is in advanced stage that would determine population, characteristics and life style of these animals and birds,” he said, adding the initial findings have revealed an increase in numbers of leopards, bears, gorals, monkeys, pheasants, partridges and birds in these forests divisions.
Dr. Mohsin Farooq, Chief Conservator KP Wildlife Department said Integrated Development Forestry Project (IDFP) worth Rs1,444 million was approved under Accelerated Implementation Program (AIP 2020-21) for conservation, management and protection of wildlife in merged areas.
Dr Mohsin said an inclusive survey for estimation of wildlife and its scientific management would be launched in merged areas with assistance of Zoological Survey of Pakistan, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Pakistan Museum of Natural History, Islamabad.
Sports hunting was regulated to stabilize partridges’ population in selected game reserves and permit fee was enhanced from Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 per permit. The revenue of Markhor trophy hunting programme has been enhanced from US$351,300 to US$512,500.
Syed Ishtiaq Urmar, Provincial Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Forests said priority was being given to strengthen national parks for protection and conservation of the endangered species.
He said 15 national parks including nine new ones had recently been announced by the Prime Minister for all provinces under ‘Protective Area Initiative’ that would help strengthen wildlife in Pakistan.
As a result of Government policies, protected areas of wildlife had been enhanced to 14.23pc of total land in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and efforts would be made to increase it up to 20pc by 2023 after inclusion of merged areas,he added.
He said five national wildlife parks were being established at Kumrat, Ansoo Lake, Satara Nand in Mansehra and Palas Kohistan.
The Minister said six national parks were already established including Saiful Malook and Lalusir in Mansehra, Nathiagali and Ayubia in Abbottabad and Chitral Gol in Chitral besides eight wildlife parks, nine pheasantries and 15 breeding enclosures in KP.