Issues and Challenges

Conservation of Wildlife in Pakistan

Imagine if tomorrow you wake up only to find that you have no water or food to drink; how would you feel? The truth is, human activities are triggering extinction of wildlife on an unprecedented and massive scale. It is not just the rivers, the air, or the land that is being damaged by pollution, it is also the ecosystems that are being adversely affected. An ecosystem provides the wildlife with food, water, shelter and space. If all four of these basic needs are not available or there is scarcity, then the wildlife population will start to dwindle. As part of the world’s ecosystems, wildlife provides balance and stability to nature’s processes. 

With the necessary resources on the decline, we are compromising the survival of human life by contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity. Humans share an ecosystem with the wildlife and when the population of wildlife species diminishes, human life is bound to alter. Plants and animals are food sources for humans, so without them, food scarcity increases. For example, when the Bison began to vanish, humans who relied on them for food, fur for warmth or trading suffered, had to rely on other sources of food and income. Some animals also act as a buffer against various diseases; if one of these species were to be endangered, then humans would be more at risk of being afflicted by the diseases that they help prevent. 

Waste generation is an issue that keeps getting worse at the worldwide, regional, and local levels. Urbanization, industrialization and a lack of proper waste management, which all contribute to the large quantity of waste generated, has caused significant environmental, social, and economic problems in emerging nations like Pakistan. 
Humans rely on wildlife and the environment for the fulfilment of basic necessities, e.g., food, fresh water, medicine, economic security, etc. Wildlife also provides us with valuable ecosystem services like pollination, soil fertilization, water purification, natural pest control, contributing to biodiversity and the overall health of ecosystems. In this mutual relationship, wildlife and natural habitat are gravely affected as the natural resources are not utilized in a sustainable manner by humans.
Wildlife populations depend on their ecosystem to receive the basic needs for survival. An ecosystem provides populations of wildlife with food, water, shelter and space. If all four of these basic needs are not available in a suitable arrangement, populations of wildlife cannot exist. Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting plant and animal species along with their habitats. As part of the world’s ecosystems, wildlife provides balance and stability to the nature’s processes.
With a population of about 208 million and the world’s fifth largest population, Pakistan generates about 32.6 million metric tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) annually at an average rate of 0.43 kg per day per capita. However, poor waste management practices in Pakistan harm wildlife and the general public’s health. If these kind of dreary conditions persist, it is feared that it will result in the destruction of the ecosystem entirely and make the life of human beings miserable and unbearable to live.
Wildlife in Pakistan is incredibly diverse and is home to a variety of species, including wolves, snow leopard, leopard, markhor, urial, marmot, marbled polecat, mongoose, fox, smooth-coated otter, badger, Asiatic black bear, wild boar, red fox, jackal, striped hyena, and caracal. The country is also a refuge for rare birds, such as the snowy owl, bearded vulture, and Pallas’s fish eagle, and home to nineteen Ramsar sites with a range of protected areas, including nature reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, that aim at the provision of a haven for endangered species, and for the protection of wildlife and biodiversity of Pakistan.
Pollution from land-based sources such as industrial sites, agricultural runoff, and marine sources contaminate natural habitats, often leading to wildlife mortality. Accumulation of toxic substances, such as heavy metals and pesticides, can be concentrated in the food chain, leading to bioaccumulation in animals and ultimately resulting in higher mortality rates. Plastic waste, both from the land and marine sources, can lead to the ingestion of toxic microfibers and blockage of digestive tracts of animals. Unfortunately, every piece of plastic created is still out there, floating in the ocean or lying in landfills, lethally being mistaken as food by the wild animals.
The effects of environmental pollution on wildlife and human health are innumerable and far-reaching. Toxic substances can enter the environment through microplastic particles, larger pieces, and airborne exposure, leading to the spread of disease and the loss of habitats. Reduction in biodiversity due to pollution curtails the overall functioning of ecosystems, leading to a decrease in natural resources that are considered indispensable for the wildlife.
Pakistan is currently facing many species being threatened with extinction, primarily due to the human activities. Overhunting, habitat destruction, and the introduction of invasive species are the main factors driving species to the peril of extinction in Pakistan. Hunting for sport and food has caused a gaping decline in numerous species, such as the markhor and snow leopard. The conversion of forests into farmland is particularly detrimental to species such as the Asian elephants that rely on the forested habitats for food and shelter. Invasive species have also had an impact on native wildlife populations. Invasive species compete with native organisms for resources and can even prey upon them, lessening their already dwindling numbers. 
Not only are human activities responsible for this environmental crisis, but the burgeoning population of Pakistan is also a significant contributor to the menace of wildlife extinction. The increasing demand for resources such as water, energy, and food has led to the overexploitation of natural resources and the destruction of natural habitats. For example, the Indus river dolphin is one of the most threatened species in Pakistan due to habitat loss attributable to overfishing, pollution from industries and agricultural activities.
To save wildlife from extinction, we need to increase the public awareness about the need for wildlife conservation in Pakistan. Widespread public awareness campaigns about wildlife conservation should be initiated to encourage people in the adoption of environment friendly attitudes and practices. Waste management should be improved to ensure that all waste is collected, managed, and disposed of in an effective manner. Industries that produce hazardous materials should monitor their activities to ensure that any waste produced does not end up contaminating the environment. This can be done through various techniques, such as composting, recycling, and waste-to-energy practices. These techniques can reduce the amount of waste that makes its way into the environment and thus reduce the impact of waste pollution on wildlife. Furthermore, protected areas should be established for endangered species to protect their habitats from detrimental human activities. With effective implementation of conservation measures, conservation of wildlife offers tangible economic benefits for local communities, revenue from sustainable activities such as ecotourism, hunting, fishing, and gathering wild products, providing employment opportunities and livelihoods, and empowering communities.
Pakistan has a number of organizations that are dedicated to the preservation of wildlife. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Pakistan is one of the largest and most active organizations working for the protection of the country’s wildlife. WWF works with local communities to conserve the rich biodiversity in the country, including species such as the Indus river dolphin, snow leopard, and black-backed jackal. WWF also tries to help reduce human-wildlife conflict, promote sustainable development practices, and increase public awareness about wildlife conservation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is another organization that is actively involved in wildlife preservation in Pakistan. They have identified several protected areas in the country, such as the Kirthar National Park, Chitral Gol National Park and Hazarganji Chiltan National Park, which provide habitats for rare species such as snow leopards, ibexes, markhors, and black bears. IUCN has also developed a comprehensive plan for conserving Pakistan’s biodiversity, strengthening of existing protected areas, identifying new protected areas, conserving threatened species and habitats, mitigating human-wildlife conflicts, and raising public awareness on conservation issues. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) is another organization involved in the protection of Pakistan’s wildlife. RSPN focuses on creating alternative livelihoods for communities living near protected areas to reduce pressure on natural resources and promote conservation. They also work with local communities to develop sustainable agricultural practices that can help reduce human-wildlife conflicts while providing a livelihood to local people at the same time. Additionally, RSPN provides technical assistance to local NGOs working on conservation projects in remote areas of Pakistan that need more resources or support.
Environmental pollution is putting people, biodiversity and fragile ecosystems of Pakistan at a high risk. It is the dire need for Pakistan to address the challenge of wildlife extinction through joint actions at the local, national and global levels. Pakistan, in coordination with relevant organizations, should be implementing initiatives to address the challenge of wildlife conservation coupled with the revival of diverse ecosystems across the country. Human activities are affecting Pakistan’s biodiversity, and numerous species are at risk of being lost forever if the conservation efforts are not made in an efficacious manner. HH

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