Strong policies, enforcement laws must to counter illicit wildlife trade: Experts

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ISLAMABAD, June 5 (APP): Senator Samina Abid, Member Standing
Committee on Climate Change has urged all government and non-governmental stakeholders to collectively tackle the illicit wildlife trade in the country.

“Illegal wildlife trade has registered an unprecedented rise over last several years in the country, warning that such trade is pushing various species to the brink of extinction, robbing the country of natural heritage, and profiting international criminal networks,” she highlighted while addressing a World Environment Day event 2016 as chief guest here at the Directorate of the Training and Research (Customs) Pakistan.

The environment day is marked every year on June 5. This year the day is being celebrated under the theme the theme ‘Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade’.

The Senator Samina Abid underlined need for nation-wide campaign against illegal trade in wildlife, which should involve all relevant government and non-governmental organizations responsible for controlling the illicit wildlife trade.

She stressed that awareness-raising about significance of wildlife to the earth’s overall ecosystem is key to discouraging the wildlife trade at any level.

The event was organized by ActionAid – Pakistan in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change and the Directorate of Trainings & Research (Customs), Pakistan.

The event aimed to engage the customs clearing agents, parliamentarians, relevant government departments, academia, donor agencies and civil society organizations to check the soaring unlawful wildlife trade.

Secretary Climate Change Ministry, Syed Abu Ahmed Akif in his address told the participants that each year thousands of wild animals are illegally hunted, smuggled or killed, often by organised criminal networks motivated by profit and greed.

“Today human greed has become a major threat to the existing wildlife species in Pakistan and all over the world. We must deflect the greed forever,” he stressed.

Talking about the theme of the environment day, Syed Abu Ahmed Akif said, “The theme of the environment day aims to highlight that how terribly the booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving whole species to the brink of extinction.

The killing and smuggling is also undermining economies and ecoystems, fuelling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe.”

He highlighted the need for efforts at each individual level to curb the illicit trade of wild life and added that involvement of communities in this regard is inevitable.

Mr. Suleman Yaqub, Additional Director, Directorate of Training & Research (Customs) Pakistan said that his department has foiled a big number of wildlife smuggling bids but steps need to be taken inside the country by the wilidlife authorities to check the illegal wildlife trade in their own limits.

He said that large-scale efforts to counter the illicit trade, stronger policies, awareness campaigns and investments in community conservation and law enforcement – can help score some unprecedented successes.

“While many species remain at risk and it will take a dedicated and sustained effort by each and every one of us to turn the tide,” he cautioned.

“Sensitization and awareness-raising programmes for Customs officials have been organized in collaboration with different government and non-governmental organizations to boost their role to bring the wildlife smuggling through any route to complete halt,” he said.

Mr. Yaqub also highlighted technological gaps that need to be plugged to strengthen his department’s role in containing the wildlife trade.
Mr. Iftikhar A Nizami, Country Director, Action Aid – Pakistan that providing alternative livelihoods to the communities in forest areas can prove supportive to the efforts for fighting illegal wildlife trade.

Talking about positive effects of the involvement of the local communities in checking the wildlife trading through community involvement, he pointed out, “His organization has provided support for creating livelihood opportunities for the local communities through provincial wildlife departments in 17 districts, which has resulted in decline in wildlife hunting and trade in these areas.”

Daud Saqlain, Head of Programs, Action Aid, Pakistan Country Program highlighted to have community based surveillance in the origin of illicit trade of wild life.

Mr. Safdar Ali Shah, Conservator Wildlife, Southern Circle, KPK mentioned about the challenges to curb illegal trade such as financial resources, political and social pressure.

Ms. Nagma Tehniat, Deputy Collector, Islamabad Airport shared legal lacunas and lack of awareness as the major barrier from a perspective of customs’ official.

Ms. Uzma Naureen, Environmental Specialist shared a very moving story of how green turtles were repatriated from China after being smuggled. Mr. Samar Hussain Khan, Assistant Secretary, Wildlife gave a comprehensive overview of the wild life species in trade demand.

Ms. Nazima Shaheen, Action Aid Pakistan country programme stressed the need to have evidences to see the actors and factors that motivates people to engage in the illegal wildlife trade and how successful policies can deter the illegal wildlife trade.

Furthermore, the enforcement of relevant conventions (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Wild Fauna and through national and regional legislation, she added.