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3rd boxThe recent furore over the illegal captivity of a baby Ibex in Gilgit-Baltistan by a government official has highlighted the plight of wildlife, rare or otherwise, in a country where few people care.

In this particular case, the captor held onto the Ibex for 10 days before forest officials managed to rescue it and release it in the Kunjerab National Park, where it probably galloped off into obscurity.

This Ibex, which is Pakistan’s national animal and is better known as the markhor, is just one of 2,500 remaining globally, and which are scattered across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) until earlier this year – when it was decided that the species had increased by 20%, the markhors are prized by trophy hunters for their splendid ‘twisted’ horns which males develop at maturity and are – very controversially – hunted by those able to pay the license fee.

Markhor numbers increased due to conservation measures, which included educating local populations about the importance of these rare animals. The fact that villagers make money – and accrue other community benefits – from these measures is a moot point.

Although the baby Markhor lived to tell its tale, a rare Blue Sheep in Hunza did not: it was shot, legally, by an Italian hunter earlier this year. Similarly, the death of approximately 12,000 dolphins every year  (they are fatally tangled in the large gillnets used by fishing boats) off the southern coast of Pakistan has not yet managed to raise any eyebrows, apart from those of the World Wildlife Fund Pakistan (WWFP) which is investigating the issue.

All in all, few people are concerned about the fate of indigenous creatures and, if they are to stand a chance of survival, this has to change. Ensuring that these treasured animals are not allowed to be hunted would be a good start.

– B. Khan                

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