ISLAMABAD: Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushahidullah Khan Friday said celebration of “World Wildlife Day”, scheduled on March 3, would provide an opportunity to renew the commitment for conservation of nature and create awareness about importance of iconic species.

“There is dire need to enhance social acceptance for wildlife so that future generations may also be benefited with these important components of ecosystems,” he said in his message on the International Wildlife Day, which would also be observed in Pakistan like other parts of the world.

United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2013 had decided to celebrate March 3 as the World Wildlife Day. It is the same day when, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted in 1973.

The CITES is an intergovernmental treaty to ensure that international trade of wild fauna and flora is sustainable.

The minister said that the theme of World Wildlife Day-2018 is “Big cats: predators under threat.”

Big cats include; Snow leopard, Lion, Tiger, Common leopard, Jaguar, Puma and Cheetah, which being top predators, play key role in maintaining healthy ecosystem.

However, population of big cats is on decline due to varied threats including loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade. Over the past century the big cats have been lost at an alarming rate.

Mushahidullah said two big cats; Snow leopard and Common leopard have been seen in mountainous areas of Pakistan recently.

Common leopard is found in mountain forests of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It was also reported from the highlands of Baluchistan and Sindh.

Snow leopard is found in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir in the northern mountainous systems; Hindu Kush, Pamirs, Karakorum, and Himalayas across.

Like other parts of the world, big cats are facing various threats in Pakistan including; habitat loss/degradation, decline in natural prey base, livestock depredation and retaliatory killing, lack of awareness, climate change and poaching for trade (skins and other parts).For conservation of big cats various actions had been taken by the present government.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan also said that Human-wildlife conflict; Snow leopard and Common leopard depredation on livestock and retaliatory killing is main threat to big cats in Pakistan.

The species are protected under wildlife laws and a system of protected areas has been established which provide safe habitat to these species besides various conservation activities. Community-based Trophy Hunting Programme of wild ungulates (Markhor, Urial, Ibex and Blue Sheep) is being successfully implemented in Pakistan.

The local communities get 80 percent shares of the revenue generation, which is used for conservation and socio-economic uplift, in return the communities protect wildlife with a sense of ownership.