The government has launched an initiative to develop Pakistan’s first ever National Red Data Book on Mammals of Pakistan. The Ministry of Climate Change said on Oct 11, 2020 it is making an effort to address threats to reinvigorating the ailing biodiversity sector and the restoration of the ecosystem.
In a statement, the ministry’s spokesperson M Saleem said: “An ambitious initiative has already been launched to develop first ever National Red Data Book on Mammals of Pakistan. It will provide overview of the status of various mammal species present in the country based on population estimates.”
Pakistan is rich in biodiversity, particularly in the arid and semi-arid regions, which cover almost 80pc of the total land area. A number of animal and plant species are threatened and/or endangered largely due to overexploitation and loss of natural habitat.
The book will be based on field surveys that have begun across the country to identify and protect endangered and rare species of plants, animals and fungi, as well as some local subspecies.
It will also identify the risks wildlife species face in the country and provide information on rare and endangered species and their habitats.
Six teams have been composed with six to eight people each, which will be conducting the surveys.
The teams consist of wildlife experts from various organisations including the climate change ministry, the zoological survey of Pakistan, the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Departments, community based organisations, NGOs such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature Pakistan, Snow Leopard Foundation and Sustainable Forest Management), and university students.
The Red Data Book would significantly help the policymakers, wildlife policymakers, conservators, researchers and experts in providing complete information for research, studies and also for monitoring the programmes on rare and endangered species and their habitats in the country.
The comprehensive National Red Data Book of Mammals will also provide population status of species at national level. It will assist in rolling out monitoring and conservation strategies for threatened wildlife species at regional levels.
The ongoing wildlife surveys aim to assess the population of Punjab Urial in Punjab and develop the National Red Data Book of Pakistan, he explained.
The 15-day surveys would continue till Oct 25, 2020, in the five districts of Jhelum, Chakwal, Attock, Mianwali and Khushab.
While giving an overview of wildlife species to be covered in the Red Data Book, he highlighted that Punjab Urial has been ranked as endemic in the country, found in scrub forest in Kala Chitta and Salt Ranges of the Punjab.
It is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is also listed in Appendix-II of the list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty among countries to protect endangered plants and animals.
The spokesperson also highlighted various challenges to survival of the Punjab Urial. Habitat fragmentation, degradation and loss caused due to livestock grazing, construction of roads, dams, encroachment of wild area due to cultivation and other developmental activities, illegal hunting for meat and trophies and the poaching of lambs are among the key threats to the Punjab Urial and foremost causes of decline in its population.
He pointed out that there is presently little baseline data available, which hardly provides any understanding about current status of the Punjab Urial species and which is a main bottleneck to its conservation and protection.