The Punjab government, in a bid to curb illegal hunting, has proposed the confiscation of weapons as a punishment for wildlife poachers. While, trophy hunting quotas for the Punjab Aryal and the Himalayan Ibex species is yet to be decided by the federal government.
“We want to bring the quality of wildlife in Punjab at par with European countries,” commented Punjab Wildlife Honorary Game Warden Badar Munir, while addressing the province’s conservation efforts.
The previous year, almost 2,800 poachers were fined for a sum of Rs 19 million by Punjab Wildlife for poaching various birds and animals. In the first 10 months of this year however, the department has already accumulated over Rs 23 million issuing similar penalties, which according to Munir, represents an increased crackdown on illegal hunting.
In addition to that, the honorary game warden also said that his department has been functioning under a dearth of funds and resources. “At present, there is a total staff strength of 1,000 employees across 36 provincial districts. At the Tehsil level, we do not even have motorcycles and even if there are any vehicles somewhere, they are almost always out of fuel. Furthermore, all our existing vehicles are really outdated as compared to the modern hunter weapons and vehicles, which puts us on the short end of the stick against poachers,” he shared.
Speaking about his proposal to the provincial chief minister to increase fines and seize weapons of illegal hunters, Munir said that he doesn’t see anything wrong in hunting abundant wildlife species or those reaching the end of their natural lifespan.
The games warden shared that he himself enjoys hunting, and has participated in games in various countries around the world.
“Trophy hunting, which was initiated three decades ago in Gilgit Baltistan, is a great way portraying Pakistan’s soft image, while also generating huge foreign exchange which can in turn be spent on the betterment of wildlife,” opined Munir. “However, hunting must always be within the limits of the law. For instance, hunting during breeding season is detrimental for animal populations and hence outlawed across the province,” he added.
Elaborating on issues faced by the department, the game warden shared that catching influential hunters and taking due action against them often lands officials in the midst of severe propaganda. “They [poachers] are well-connected and often start anti-corruption petitions against us to exact revenge. Which is why a lot of lower-level officials are hesitant in taking action against these seasoned criminals,” he informed.
On the other hand however, Munir said that his department is extremely particular about keeping a check on its own employees. “We take immediate action if any of our own is found to be involved in buying, selling or hunting of protected animals in any capacity.
Recently, a Bahawalnagar wildlife inspector was suspended from duty for his involvements with poaching entities.
Hunting birds and animals during breeding season is a tantamount crime, which directly affects animal population and jeopardises the survival of endangered species,” Munir told The Express Tribune.