By Zulfiqar Ali, Dawn
PESHAWAR: The import of a pair of African elephants from Zimbabwe to Peshawar Zoo is in limbo as the federal ministry of climate change has declined to issue no objection certificate to the contractor, officials said on Wednesday.
Provincial environment minister Syed Mohammad Ishtiaq told Dawn that the climate change ministry had refused to entertain his government’s request for the issuance of NoC to the contractor, who had been authorised to import the pair of elephants from Africa.
“The ministry says that the international trade of African elephants for commercial purposes has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and therefore, the NoC cannot be issued,” he said.
The minister said Peshawar Zoo might not get elephants as the committee had imposed a ban on the international trade of elephants for five years under the convention.
The African and all Asian elephants was listed in Appendix 1 of the CITES few months ago after the wild species were considered to be ‘threatened with extinction’. Officials said that Pakistan was signatory to CITES and other conventions related to trade of wild animals and bound to fulfil its obligations in this respect.
The process of purchasing elephants for zoo had begun in 2017 and the department had issued a work order to the successful bidder in Jan 2018. The international trade of elephants was banned few months ago to protect the large mammal from extinction.
An official said under the CITES, a special waiver allowed the international trade of elephants until Nov 25.
He said the Zimbabwean government allowed the export of elephants to Pakistan after the convention gave a special relaxation.
The official documents show that after receiving work order from the provincial government, the contractor struck a deal in Zimbabwe to purchase a pair of elephants (male and female). The total cost of the deal is around Rs80 million.
Sources said a team of conservators from Zimbabwe also visited Peshawar and inspected an enclosure constructed for elephants at the zoo. The team gave its approval, sources said, adding that the contractor also booked cargo twice to transport elephants from Zimbabwe to Pakistan.
An official said the wildlife department had sent a letter to the federal ministry on Nov 11 requesting the issuance of NoC to the contractor for elephant import.
The first letter for NoC was sent to the federal government in Jan 2018 when the international trade of elephants was not banned, but the letter was not entertained.
“Some officials in the ministry created hurdles and intentionally blocked the issuance of NoC,” said the official.
He said the host country’s wildlife department had issued health certificate and export permit but the Pakistani climate change ministry raised objection and didn’t issue NoC.
Sources said before striking the deal for elephants in Zimbabwe, the government had also approached the Sri Lankan government for the provision of elephants for Peshawar Zoo, but it (Sri Lanka) expressed unwillingness.
They said the Lankan government was not ready to provide elephants after witnessing the ‘awful’ condition of the elephant kept in Islamabad Zoo.
Officials said the provincial government might incur Rs70-Rs80 million losses if the contractor went to the court.
Contractor Mohammad Haneef claimed that he had visited many countries, including South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe, to buy elephants after he was awarded the contract.
The officials claimed that the zoo opened to the public in Feb 2018 generated Rs50 million annually.
They said different types of local and exotic animals and birds were kept in the zoo.