Sindh is rich with a diverse array of wildlife species, even in the desert areas of Thar. However conservationists are becoming increasingly worried about the survival of certain species who they believe are under threat or on the verge of extinction due to government negligence as well as the hostile attitude of farmers and other locals.
One such species is the Indian pangolin or scaled anteater that is native to the Thar desert and parts of Sindh.
According to wildlife conservationists a small population of the pangolin - locally known as Chiunti Khor– can be found in natural environments such as riverine forests, karachi’s beaches, mountains as well as green zones across Sindh.
Recently a farmer crushed a helpless pandolin under the wheels of his tractor in Thar, as he felt its presence was threatening. The latter carelessness and insensitivity shown towards the pandolins has raised a red flag for wildlife activists as well as one Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) official who told The News that the government is not even aware of the total population of this species in the province; let alone taking measures to protect it.
The SWD official, on the condition of anonymity, expressed that the department had failed to prioritise species that need protection and take measures to conserve their populations in the wild due to negligence as well as the hostile attitude of farmers and herdsmen. He lamented that due to the latter failure many species have already disappeared from the wild.
“SWD has only put a few species such as the deer, hog deer and others on their list of priorities. But there are many others that need protection and due to the lack of data we do not know their current status in the wild,” the official said.
He explained that Indian pangolin were one of the most timid mammals that ordinarily shy away from human contact, adding that this was why they inhabited remote natural environments.
He stressed that this species were a testament of nature’s beauty and needed to be given importance at the government level. Even SWD senior staff members were unaware about the importance of this sensitive animal along with other birds, reptiles and insects that are in need of their protection, he said regrettably.
Without proper data available the department’s field staff can not educate locals about the importance of this species. Ever since its inception in 1972, Sindh’s Wildlife Department has yet to conduct a comprehensive survey of all the species native to the province that would help quantify their exact numbers as well as their natural habitats.
The official pointed to the unique role that each species played in the delicate ecological balance of the natural environments, and how the government should not neglect one while protecting others.
He said that at this point SWD lacked the facility to keep pandolins in its protective custody, therefore, in the event that somebody finds one wandering in human habitats the best solution is to release it into the canal so as to save it from the people; who would most likely try to kill it at first glance.
Traditional conservationists believe that an increased awareness about the animal at the community level would help protect it from becoming endangered.
According to the official, because their numbers as well as habitats are relatively unknown he can only guess that theirn dwindling numbers in the area were due to changes in crop patterns along with shifting weather conditions that have pushed the pandolin to other habitats or else they are currently battling for their very survival.
Despite several attempts, The News was unable to get a statement from the Sindh Wildlife Conservator regarding any future plans to comprehensively map out the various species inhabiting the province.