Leopard Entering Residential Area Is Questioning Pakistani Animal Laws

Last month a leopard was found in the residential area of DHA in Islamabad after which several people started questioning animal laws in Pakistan.

Last month, a leopard wandered into a residential area, likely on a nighttime stroll. This required wildlife officials to use tranquillizer darts in a frantic five-hour-long attempt at capturing the animal.

The young male cat was seen in social media videos from the event on February 16 sliding between automobiles, knocking down a man, and jumping over a backyard fence. It ran riot in the DHA area of Islamabad before getting caught, even injuring four people.

Wildlife officials originally thought the leopard was a pet and it had managed to escape from confinement, but they afterwards said it came from the jungle because it displayed no indications of being tamed. The incident in the jungle has once again brought attention to urban areas intruding on natural environments and the practice of maintaining big cats as household pets.

Yet, previous reports have stated that many residents of affluent neighbourhoods keep wild animals as pets because some owners view big cats, such as lions, tigers, and leopards, as emblems of power and riches.

Other wild creatures maintained as pets in Pakistan comprise birds from various nations as well as snakes and iguanas.

The DHA episode, which led some conservation officials to refer to the leopard as “Deeaitchay,” has also raised concerns about the legislation — or lack thereof — regulating the keeping of dangerous and exotic creatures in captivity.

The current legislation might be ambiguous, incomplete, and vary from region to region. Organizations and wildlife authorities have urged for stricter rules in this area.

The Islamabad Wildlife (Protec­tion, Preservation, Conser­vation and Management) Ord­i­nance (1979) (IWO) inhibits the hunting, transport, and trade of wild animals, outlaws their killing and capture, and gives officially approved officers the authority to search any location without a court order if they believe someone is keeping a wild animal.

Moreover, a long list of creatures that “must not be hunted, killed, or caught” is provided in the ordinance. These animals include everything from pelicans, flamingos, swans, and ducks to barking deer, otters, pangolins, and leopards in animals.

Yet if someone wishes to maintain lions and tigers, which are not native and are not legally classified as wild, the IWO appears to have no authority.

Nevertheless, Vaqar Zakaria, a chairman of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, claimed that all laws about wild and exotic animals have already been incorporated into the draught Islamabad Nature Bill (IWMB).

Since its establishment in 2015 per Section 4 of the Islamabad Wildlife Ordinance, the IWMB, a government agency working under the Ministry of Climate Change, has not granted a solitary licence to natural sources of wild animals.

The number of people in Islamabad who own wild or exotic animals is not known for certain.  For exotic animals like lions and tigers to be kept in Punjab, licences are issued by the province authorities.

In July 2020, Sindh passed a new wildlife law to safeguard 82 kinds of certain other animals, 107 varieties of crawling creatures, and 326 bird species.

A prior law that only offers security for 45 different species of birds and animals was replaced by the Sin­dh Wildlife Protection, Pre­ser­va­tion, Conservation and Management Act 2020, which took effect almost 50 years.

The legislation also includes a clause for the establishment of a national reserve, wildlife reserve, and sanctuary, for the regulation of hunting, for the transportation and shipment of captive-bred animals, as well as for crimes and fines.

In contrast to the previous practise of providing a two-liner official authorization for establishing a mini-zoo, and that too without identifying any specific species, the act attaches various strict requirements to the authorised owner of any wildlife species.

For instance, there are 39 requirements for legally owning exotic big cats, one of which requires the owner to obtain the animal’s DNA certification, which can only be performed at a select few institutions nationwide.

No new requests for the importation of big cats will be considered under the 2020 law. Big cat ownership in housing neighbourhoods is also prohibited by the license, and applicants must get a certificate of no complaint from the local union council, town assembly, and cantonment authority.

According to KP officials, strict regulations have been put in place by the provincial government to regulate private reproductive facilities.

According to a wildlife official, the state government announced the Breeding Facility Rules last year. These rules require that all breeding facilities register with the agency and pay taxes on the animals housed there.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity (Protection, Preservation, Conserv­ation and Management) Act of 2015 authorised the adoption of these regulations.

The laws, which only permitted keeping birds and herbivores in prison and prohibited maintaining carnivores, the official added, would result in severe fines and the closure of any illicit breeding facilities.

The Balochistan (Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conserva­tion and Manage­m­e­­nt) Act 2014 was passed by the provincial administration in March of that year.

In Schedule III of the law, a full list of wild creatures that must be preserved is provided. Certain creatures, such as huge cats, snakes, and reptiles like marsh crocodiles, cannot be pursued, killed, imprisoned, caught, traded, owned, or kept as pets. No one in Quetta has obtained a legal permit to adopt these as pets.

We need more laws.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pakistan has emphasised the need for provincial wildlife agencies to create a separate cell for managing and protecting animals as soon as possible. The WWF Pakistan has previously raised several instances of big cats kept in housing neighbourhoods and their open exhibits in public places.

Additionally, the Fund has demanded that rigorous legislation be put in place to stop the illegal trade in wild animals as well as the habit of maintaining them as pets. It emphasised the requirement for new legislation in the nation outlawing the ownership of wild animals as pets, including tigers and lions.

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