WWF-Pakistan and Sindh Wildlife Department organise capacity building workshop for SWD Officials
Sukkur : Aiming to build capacity of wildlife department officials to address conservation challenges, WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) organised a workshop in Sukkur. Key components of the workshop included training on the safe rescue and release of stranded Indus river dolphins and a session to effectively tackle trapping, poaching and illegal trade of freshwater turtles and migratory birds in Sindh. Participants of the workshop included more than 40 officials of SWD deputed at different barrages along the Indus River including game watchers, inspectors and officers as well as representatives of local communities.
Training experts included senior officials from WWF-Pakistan and SWD who shed light on the key aspects of the illegal trade in wildlife, legislation which govern wildlife trafficking and the mechanism to effectively tackle this challenge, particularly trapping and poaching of freshwater turtles and migratory birds.
Speaking on the occasion, Imran Malik, Senior Conservation Officer, WWF-Pakistan shared that stranding in low waters is a constant threat that this endangered species faces, which usually occurs during the period of canal closures when flood gates are closed resulting in a drop in water level. Furthermore, intensive fishing in the core dolphin habitat is another threat which increases the probability of dolphins getting entangled in fishing nets, making it critical to continuously monitor the Indus River and adjacent canals. WF-Pakistan has initiated numerous programmes to support and protect the population of these dolphins in collaboration with partners and has rescued more than 120 dolphins since 1992. Community awareness and education has also helped substantially decrease stranding-induced dolphin mortalities in recent years.
Malik also said that WWF–Pakistan as part of its existing initiative supported by USAID through its Small Grants and Ambassador Fund Program has developed a National Plan of Action (NPOA) to combat illegal wildlife trade in Pakistan. WWF-Pakistan, besides developing the NPOA has also built capacities of more than 200 representatives of law-enforcement agencies covering the key aspects of illegal wildlife trade. ‘Additionally wildlife information desks are being setup in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority and provincial wildlife department to increase vigilance over the wildlife traffickers’, he added
While, Taj Muhammad Shaikh, Deputy Conservator Wildlife, Sindh Wildlife Department, shared that the long-term partnership between WWF-Pakistan and SWD, has been instrumental for the protection of Indus dolphins and is addressing anthropogenic threats confronting the dolphin population.
The second session of the workshop included a hands-on training on effective monitoring and important procedures of dolphin rescue, translocation and safe release operations following international standards followed by a mock Indus dolphin rescue exercise.
The Indus river dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor), an endangered freshwater cetacean, is a WWF priority species. Pakistan is home to approximately 1,452 Indus river dolphins, distributed between Chashma and Kotri barrages. The Indus river dolphin population is highly fragmented due to the construction of water regulatory barrages with the largest population concentrated between Guddu and Sukkur barrages, a legally protected area known as the Indus Dolphin Game Reserve.
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