Pakistan requests US not to down list markhor

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has requested United States (US) not to down list markhor from Appendix-I to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES).

According to CITES website, Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial.

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Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

Down listing the animal will reduce its value as a trophy and due to low price, the mountain communities now safeguarding it will give up the effort and the it might be hunted into extinction.

In past millions of vultures were eliminated within a short span of 10 years due to such down listing. The provinces have also backed MoCC view point that markhor should not be down listed from CITES Appendix I to AppendixII in the meeting of Wildlife Management Board meeting on Tuesday.

Couple of months back the US of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service had sought Pakistan’s proposals regarding down listing of markhor from CITES, Appendix I to Appendix II.

The US Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service(USFWS) in a letter to Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) had conveyed that in preparation for the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES)(COP18), the USFWS had invited the public to provide them information and recommendations on animal and plants species to be considered as candidates for US proposals to amend Appendices I and II, of CITES at CoP18.

In response to request, USFWS received a recommendation of Safari Club International (SCI) to transfer markhor from Appendix I to Appendix II. At this USFWS was again gathering and reviewing available trade and biological data for markhor to help in evaluation of this request to transfer the species from Appendix I to Appendix II of CITES.

Since Pakistan is a range country for this species, USFWS sought Pakistan opinion on this species. In response to USFWS letter the MoCC said that since early 1990s Pakistan had been implementing community based trophy hunting programme which had proved a success in terms of increase in population of the species and social and economic uplift of the communities.

Under this programme communities get 80 per cent of the revenues generated and in return were actively involved in community-based conservation activities from watch and ward to monitoring of species. Communities are willing to join the programme and therefore Pakistan intends to get its existing quota to be increased at the next meeting of CoP.

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Pakistan said that due to climate change threat the habitat of markhor was changing. The community based trophy hunting programme helped in conservation and increase of its population.

The biggest threat which markhor faced and caused decline in its population was poaching in its habitat and being in Appendix I, gives it a special conservation status in Pakistan which paid off in increasing its population but there was a need to consolidate its conservation gains achieved in past. “Being in the appendix I, markhor trophy has high price, if it is down listed its price will reduce and community will not give it as much protection because of its low prices,” MoCC adduced its view point adding that mountain communities could start killing more animals to maintain previous level of revenues.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2018.

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