The Himalayan moist and dry temperate forests are hot spots for avian species as they contain the largest populations of the endangered western tragopan, and other birds. These areas are also home to wild relatives of livestock such as the Himalayan ibex, the Chiltan and Sulaiman markhor, and the urial sheep. The Indus flood plains are among the world’s most important areas for migratory birds.
Species of Special Concern
Only four species of mammals are endemic to Pakistan. Two species i.e. Woolly Flying Squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus) and Indus Dolphin (Platanista minor) were declared as an Endangered (EN) at the recent attempt on mammalian red listing for Pakistan. Two endemic sub-species are the Balochistan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus) declared as Critically Endangered (CR) and the Punjab Urial (Ovis vignei punjabensis) as Endangered.
Though little data is available, there is little reason to believe that Pakistan's biota is exempt from this rapid decline. Within the last 400 years, at least four mammals are known to have disappeared from Pakistan: the tiger (Panthera tigris), swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli), lion (Panthera leo) and the Indian one-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). Furthermore, four species are also extinct: the Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), the Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur) andthe Hangul (Cervus elaphus hanglu) have most likely become extinct in recent decades (Roberts 1977, Khan and Hussain 1985). The fourth species is the Blackbuck (Antelope cervicapra) which is listed as an extinct species but has been bred in captivity. Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichii) is another example of recent extinction of a pheasant species in the wild. Though many efforts were made at different appropriate locations to re-introduce the bird, yet viable population of re-introduced birds could not be established. According to a behavioural study on captive flock of cheer pheasants21, it was found that the bird exhibits a number of survival elements that promise success of reintroduction.
The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals (IUCN 1996) lists 44 species and sub-species of internationally threatened or near-threatened mammals that are found in Pakistan (Appendix A). Of these, 12 are critically endangered, 12 endangered, 20 vulnerable, 31 near-threatened, 39 data deficient and status of few taxa is still not evaluated. The critically endangered mammals are the Balochistan black bear (Ursus tibetanus gedrosianus) and the Chiltan goat (Capra aegagrus chiltanensis). The full list of threatened and near-threatened mammals includes: four species of bats (Chiroptera), two species of primates, three species of dogs (Canidae), three species and two sub-species of cats (Felidae), one species of otter (Mustelidae), and one species and one sub-species of bear (Ursidae). The list also names three species of cetacean, one species and one sub-species of Artiodactyla, one sub-species of Cervid, 11 species and nine sub- species of Bovidae (antelopes, goats, sheep, etc.), one species of pangolin (Manidae), and seven species of Rodentia.
Twenty-five internationally threatened birds (one critically endangered, two endangered, and 22 vulnerable) and 17 internationally near-threatened birds are found in Pakistan (Collar and Andrew 1994, IUCN 1996) (see Appendix B). One critically threatened bird is the lesser florican (Eupodotis indica).
Ten internationally threatened reptiles occur in Pakistan (three endangered, three vulnerable, three near threatened and one data deficient), but there are no internationally threatened amphibians in Pakistan (IUCN 1996) (see Appendix A). The latest Red Data Book (IUCN 1996) additionally lists one species of fish, the spiny eel (Macrognathus aral) and one species of invertebrate, a butterfly (Hyles hippophaes) as data deficient.
Lists of internationally threatened species show only the tip of the iceberg. While there is little data available to demonstrate the decline of species' populations in Pakistan, the accelerating loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats clearly imply such declines. Habitat fragmentation isolates the population of a species, exposing them to a higher rate of loss of genetic diversity and a higher risk of extinction (UNEP 1995). A few preliminary attempts have been made to draw up national lists of threatened species. These include a list of some 500 species of plants believed to be nationally rare or threatened (Davis et al. 1986). No comprehensive and systematic list of species of national concern has been compiled for Pakistan. Such a list would include species, which are nationally rare and declining, and those that are nationally rare, and not declining, but otherwise at risk (e.g. from population fluctuations, natural catastrophes, indiscriminate killing, etc.). The list would also include those that are highly localised in distribution and those, which are still widespread and common but are suffering significant decline. IUCN Pakistan in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment regularly compiles the Red list of mammals and fresh water biodiversity by calling consultative meetings of the experts.
Protected Area Systems
Land areas set aside specifically for protecting wildlife is not a new concept in Pakistan. The early rulers or Mirs often declared certain areas as preserves especially for this purpose so they would have a sufficient supply of game animals for hunting.
The first forest reserves set up under the British period in the mid 1800's, more often than not circumscribed the same areas previously set aside by the Mirs. Under the British forest system, habitat was protected and to some degree wildlife itself. Outside the Indus basin, wildlife has maintained itself due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the terrain, especially in the northern mountainous, tribal areas. Local chieftains with a passion for hunting often recognised the value of putting certain areas off limits to hunting to allow animal populations to build up.
Thus, coming into the present century there were a number of areas scattered around the country that served to protect wildlife. Except for the reserved or protected forests, few received more than a minimum amount of management and many were unknown. The passage of the Wildlife Protection Ordinance in 1959 and issuance of the Wildlife Protection Rules in 1960 authorised the establishment of sanctuaries and reserves for game. Wildlife was formally recognised as an important natural heritage.
Following the 1966 and 1967 WWF expeditions in Pakistan to assess the state of the environment, recommendations were made to the Government of Pakistan for the establishment of parks and reserves. The functions of the Wildlife Inquiry Committee, appointed in 1968 included the selection of suitable areas for declaration as national parks or reserves. The committee also made recommendations concerning legislative, administrative and other measures concerning the national parks. It was well-recognised that in order to conserve wildlife, Pakistan needed an extensive network of well-maintained reserves and that this network should include samples of all the various habitats and their associated fauna, including predators such as wolves and leopards. The Wildlife Inquiry Committee completed its work in October 1970 and recommended the establishment of 46 wildlife sanctuaries. These would be devoted to preservation of flora and fauna in its natural state and entrance and other activities would be controlled by permit. Forestry practices were prohibited, as were the collection of grass, firewood, building materials. Five Game Reserves were established and hunting was to be controlled by a special permit system.
The first national park, Lal Suhanra, was formally declared in the Bahawalpur district of Punjab in 1972. The park consists of irrigated forest plantations (20,974 acres), desert branch pond (4780 acres) and Cholistan Desert (51726 acres) for a total of 77480 acres. The park was established to protect existing wildlife and vegetation; reintroduce extirpated species; rehabilitate wildlife habitat; create education/research facilities for local and foreign tourists, and recreational facilities for the local population.
Kirthar National Park achieved its protected status in 1973. Established in the Dadu district of Sindh, this 466,000 acre reserve provides protection for a fine herd of ibex about 60 miles north of Karachi. Other large game species such as Indian gazelle and urial sheep have increased their populations within the park. A management plan has been drawn up for the park with the assistance of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). However, fiscal restraints and other priorities have largely precluded full implementation of the plan.
Khunjerab in northern Hunza, Gilgit Agency, became the third national park in 1975. This area has been successful in providing protection for the Marco Polo's sheep, blue sheep, snow leopard, snow cock, snow partridge and other high mountain species.
National parks in Pakistan have apparently been established primarily for wildlife and not necessarily for their historic or scenic features. The provincial wildlife departments handle their administration. So far, 14 national parks have been declared as follows:
NAME OF THE NATIONAL PARK AREA (ha) Year of declaration
Ayubia 1,684 1984
Central Karakorum National Park 1390100 1995
Chinji 6,095 1987
Chitral Gol 7,750 1974
Deosai Plains 3,58,400 1993
Ghmot 27394 2004
Hazarganji–Chiltan 15,555 1980
Hingol 165,004 1997
Kandrap Shandur 51,200 1993
Khunjerab 226,913 1975
Kirthar 308,733 1974
Lal Sohanra 37,426 1972
Lulusar 75058 2003
Machiara 13,532 1980
Margalla Hills 17,426 1980
Pir Lasura 5625 2003
Saifulmaluk 12026 2003
Sheikh Buddin 15,554 1993
IUCN PROTECTED AREAS CLASSIFICATION
I. Strict Nature Reserve/Wilderness Area: Areas of land and/or sea possessing outstanding or representative ecosystems, geological physiological features and/or species, available primarily for scientific research and/or environmental monitoring; or large areas of unmodified or slightly modified land, and/or sea, retaining their natural character and influence, without permanent or significant habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition.
II. National Park: Protected Areas Managed Mainly for Ecosystem Conservation and Recreation. Natural areas of land and/or sea, designated to (a) protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for this and future generations, (b) exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area and (c) provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.
III. Natural Monument: Protected Areas Managed Mainly for Conservation of Special Features. Areas containing one or more specific natural or natural/ cultural features which is of outstanding or unique value because of its inherent rarity, representative or aesthetic qualities or cultural significance.
IV. Habitat/Species Management Area: Protected Areas Managed Mainly for Conservation through Management Intervention. Areas of land and/ or sea subject to active intervention for management purposes to ensure the maintenance of habitats and/ or to meet the requirements of specific species.
V. Protected Landscape / Seascape: Protected Areas Managed Mainly for Landscape/ Seascape conservation and recreation. Areas of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the impact of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant aesthetic, cultural and/ or ecological value, and often with high biological diversity. Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional interaction is vital to the protection, maintenance and evolution of such an area.
VI. Managed Resource Protected Area Protected Areas Managed Mainly for the Sustainable Use of Natural Ecosystems. Areas containing predominantly unmodified natural systems managed to ensure long-term protection and maintenance of biological diversity, while providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs.
Source: IUCN, 1994. Guidelines for Protected Area Management Categories
In addition to the above mentioned 19 national parks, the provincial governments have listed 99 wildlife sanctuaries (Punjab - 37, Sindh - 35, Northwest Frontier - 6, Balochistan 14, Northern Areas – 5, federal territory 1). In addition, 97 areas have been designated as game reserves. These govern an additional 4407 square miles of terrain, (Punjab - 19 areas, Sindh - 14 areas, Northwest Frontier - 38 areas, Balochistan - 8 areas, Northern Areas - 9 sites and AJK - 8 sites, federal territory - 1).
The list of Ramsar Sites in Pakistan is given in chapter 8. Most of the areas were created to provide habitat protection for animal species commonly referred to as game (hunt-able species for sport or meat). Providing protection for these species also offered a measure of security for many lesser known plant species and smaller animal species. Thus, the Government of Pakistan has created a parks and reserves system governing about 12% of total land area. Although extensive, only a fraction of the network is protected. Game reserves, in particular, which are often in private land, receive minimal protection due to the lack of legal provisions to control land use. Wildlife sanctuaries enjoy better protection, but in practice, legal restrictions are seldom enforced other than to prevent hunting. Most sanctuaries have been designated in reserve forests of commercial value where timber and minor forest products are harvested. Enforcement is better in the national parks. Protected areas have been created haphazardly, often in the absence of any criteria for their selection, and the boundaries drawn with little or no ecological basis. The protected areas system is under review to incorporate a new category of protected areas viz. Biodiversity conservation.