The Islamabad Nature Conservation and Wildlife Management Act 2023 brings stricter rules. Here is what it entails.
The Islamabad Nature Conservation and Wildlife Management Act 2023 aims to strengthen wildlife and environmental protections within the Islamabad Capital Territory and hopes to restrict the captivity of wild and exotic species as pets.
The act, that replaces an ordinance from 1979, prohibits wild animals from being kept privately as pets. This includes exotic big cats, a trend that has seen these wild animals increasingly kept as pets in residential areas in Pakistan.
The new rules also ban the private sector from establishing breeding facilities for wild animals. However, these same restrictions aren’t imposed on the public sector, where the law allows for the regulation of breeding facilities and the establishment of public sector animal rescue and rehabilitation centers for wild animals.
It additionally requires exotic or wild species in private possession to be declared and surrendered to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, failing which, the law grants the Board the power to search and seize animals without a warrant.
Which animals are protected?
The document defines all species that fall under the wildlife category, including game animals when immature, female game animals when suckling, pregnant or accompanied by offspring.
It also includes native and exotic species listed in Appendix-I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and CMS (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animal).
The law further specifies a long list of unregulated, carnivore, primate, aquatic, rodent mammals and ducks, some avian species and all members of the reptile group.
These categories extend from big cats to otherwise common pets like lizards, marine and freshwater turtles, tortoises, some parakeet and duck species, owls and some pheasants.
Shortcomings and loopholes
The framework is vaguely worded and fails to define a course of action to locate and seize wild animals kept as pets. Currently, the directive only mandates owners surrender their pets.
Furthermore, there are no outlined plans for animal welfare standards and measures licensed facilities that house exotic animals can take if someone commits the offense of “injuring” a wild animal.
The new law also does not prohibit the importation of exotic species. This is regulated by permits obtained from the Board and the country of export.
But special permits obtained under the Pakistan Trade Control of Fauna and Flora Act 2012 to import wild species contradict the act, allowing the legal possession of wild and exotic animals under many circumstances in Islamabad.
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