Table of Contents
It is now empirically proven that all forms of life on earth are interdependent and that if one form of life is removed the others will sooner or later be impacted. The matter has become more serious as the latest human knowledge knows a fraction of what lives on earth. So, if a species no recorded by science if lost will never be known and human science has no means to know what species has been lost along with its habitat.
The question arises as to why we should care about species conservation in particular the unknown ones; the answer based on our best knowledge that every species has its role in the overall ecosystem functioning and that nobody knows which species has what economic value for mankind. The emergence of previously unknown corona virus that caused numerous human deaths and jeopardized the entire global economy is a clear example as to how a virus believed to be living in the wild causes havoc when it comes into contact with humans.
Global biodiversity is the measure of biodiversity on planet Earth and is defined as the total variability of life forms. More than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. Estimates on the number of Earth’s current species range from 2 million to 1 trillion of which about 1.74 million have been databased thus far and over 80 percent have not yet been described.
More recently, in May 2016, scientists reported that 1 trillion species are estimated to be on Earth currently with only one-thousandth of one percent described. Knowing the species, describing and assessing their status falls in the domain of the discipline of taxonomy. Taxonomic research in today’s corporate world satisfies the appetite of science but not necessarily would lead into commercial gains.
Therefore, there is a global trend of decreasing funds for taxonomic research. In such a situation the task of ascertaining the status of any species based on studies of population trends and threats is a big challenge with funding that is a fraction of what is needed to study the 2 million to 1 trillion estimated species. No wonder the lack of funding has resulted in low number of students who opt for taxonomy in their courses of studies as a result of which there is an acute shortage of trained taxonomists.
Realizing the problems and issues as discussed above IUCN has developed the most cost-effective way to assess the status of species though only 134,400 species have been assessed for The IUCN Red List. Whereas IUCN’s goal is to have 160,000 species assessed even if this target is achieved it will be hardly 8 % of the estimated 2 million species that are believed to exist on earth.
With so many gaps between the species that have been documented and studied and those that exist on earth at the global level the extent of the problem in Pakistan and Balochistan is much more severe.
Pathway to Conserve Species: The Red Data Book Approach
The number of species to be studied is huge (between 2 million to one trillion) and there are neither enough taxonomists available nor research funds. At a time when the rate of species extinction is at its highest IUCN’s Red List has come up as not only the best but the only option available to assess the status of species.
The Red List is still highly biased towards charismatic species, as a result of the biases in the biological knowledge on which it is based as popular species like elephants and lions were at the center stage in the initial years.
Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species.
The initial assessments were mostly based on opinions of scientists and were subject to criticism on their veracity. However, the assessments are rapidly becoming more representative geographically (with increasingly global assessments), taxonomically (with the expansion to plant and invertebrate groups), and ecologically (with the expansion to marine and freshwater species).
As a result, the Red List contributes to our understanding of the variability in threat status and process, both within and across taxa, providing insights into the nature of extinction. The Red List is becoming the global standard to ensure consistency in conservation investment across taxa and regions. Such consistency is sorely needed, in particular for those non charismatic species requiring the most urgent attention. in particular the huge number of viruses and bacteria that need our urgent attention. With its standard methodology for evaluating the threat levels of species and collecting baseline data, the Red List is helping to focus priorities for geographically (or taxonomically) important taxon.
The first Red List assessments relied on the experience and common sense of experts, without following a protocol, as it was assumed that ‘any competent naturalist would have known the category to place assess and allocate a category to a species. Although the idea of having experts assessing the conservation status of a species was revolutionary at the time, the subjectivity of these assessments (open as they were to biases of individual preference or political influence) was subsequently realized. Over the past decade, the nature of the assessments has changed dramatically, with the implementation of data-driven and objective criteria for estimating extinction risk.
The new criteria were introduced after a long phase of development, consultation and validation across a broad range of species. Although the opinions of species experts are no longer used to categorize the threatened status of species subjectively, experts retain integral roles through the compilation and review of the primary data required to allocate each species into a category (Table 1). The listing criteria are clear and comprehensive (Table 1), but flexible enough to handle uncertainty. Assessments must be backed up by data, justifications, sources and estimates of uncertainty and data quality. Evaluated species for which insufficient data are available to make an assessment are classified as Data Deficient. Species assessments are compiled from published data and later peer reviewed by at least two experts.
This approach successfully attracted conservation efforts to many such species, but the Red List is now more powerful because it has moved towards documenting entire species clades and regions, including threatened and non-threatened species.
Such evaluations are typically carried out by Specialist Groups, the results of which are often incorporated in Action Plans aimed at the recovery of species. Increasingly, the Red List receives input from global networks of experts, bringing together the most up-to-date data to make assessments that are as accurate and transparent as possible. The IUCN follows a model of free, public, electronic access to all data and assessments that invites outside input and has established an independent process.
Strengths and Shortcomings of Red Data Books
Although the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is far from perfect or complete, it remains faithful to its original aim of providing the most comprehensive and scientifically rigorous information about the conservation status of species. In the 40 years since it was conceived, the Red List has evolved to become a key tool in conservation, with applications ranging from local to global scales. Its value derives from the implementation of a data-driven protocol, which leads to consistent classifications, as well as the compilation of a wealth of supporting data. For example, it is often assumed that Red List classifications are still based solely on expert opinion, that the Red List is simply a classification of species into threat categories, or that too few species have been assessed to make it a useful tool for understanding patterns of, and threats to, biodiversity.
These impressions have sometimes become obstacles to the use of an extremely valuable conservation tool despite the World Conservation Congress passed a resolution in 2004 (RESWCC3.013) mandating the development of uses of the Red List for national legislation, international conventions, conservation planning and scientific research that “CALLS UPON governments to make use of the data in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species when considering the species to be afforded special conservation measures under national legislation;” However no IUCN member state nor any environmental MEA ever provided status of implementation to the IUCN, however keeping in view the nature of the huge volume of work needed all continue to use the Red List as a gold standard and continue to make efforts to prepare their respective Red Lists.
Taxonomy the Mother Science and its Status
Taxonomy is the science of naming, describing and classifying organisms and includes all plants, animals and microorganisms of the world. Using morphological, behavioral, genetic and biochemical observations, taxonomists identify, describe and arrange species into classifications, including those that are new to science. Taxonomy identifies and enumerates the components of biological diversity providing basic knowledge underpinning management and implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Unfortunately, taxonomic knowledge is far from complete.
In the past 250 years of research, taxonomists have named about 1.78 million species of animals, plants and micro-organisms, yet the total number of species is unknown and probably between 5 and 30 million (the figures life on earth differ between IUCN and the CBD) Global biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate as a result of human activities, and decisions must be taken now to combat this trend. But how do decision-makers decide where to establish protected areas if they don’t know what is being protected? How can regulators identify and combat harmful invasive species if they cannot distinguish them from native species? How do developing countries ensure that they reap the benefits of the use of their biological diversity, if they don’t know the biological diversity that is being used? Taxonomy provides basic understanding about the components of biodiversity which is necessary for effective decision-making about conservation and sustainable use.
The Problem with Taxonomy
Governments, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, have acknowledged the existence of a “taxonomic impediment” to the sound management of biodiversity. The purpose of the Global Taxonomic Initiative is to remove or reduce this taxonomic impediment – in other words, the knowledge gaps in our taxonomic system (including those associated with genetic systems), the shortage of trained taxonomists and curators, and the impact these deficiencies have on our ability to conserve, use and share the benefits of our biological diversity.
Identification of large, charismatic animals may be easy; however, the majority of organisms are insects, plants, fungi and microorganisms, which require expert skills for correct identification. Most of them have not been categorized or given formal scientific names. The inability to identify (or obtain identifications of) species is a major component of the taxonomic impediment. Simple-to-use identification guides for the non-taxonomist are rare and available for relatively few taxonomic groups and geographic areas. Taxonomic information is often in formats and languages that are not suitable or accessible in countries of origin, as specimens from developing countries are often studied in industrialized nations.
There are millions of species still undescribed and there are far too few taxonomists to do the job, especially in biodiversity-rich but economically poorer countries. Most taxonomists work in industrialized countries, which typically have less diverse biota than in more tropical developing countries. Collection institutions in industrialized countries also hold most specimens from these developing countries, as well as associated taxonomic information. Furthermore, although there is extensive taxonomic work on groups such as birds, mammals and higher plants, little is known of their distribution, biology, and genetics. It is estimated that only 10% of vertebrates remain to be described, but greater than 50% of terrestrial arthropods and up to 95% of protozoa are undescribed. At the most conservative estimate there are more unknown species than known ones on earth.
The best solution to address the issues related to taxonomy is to create incentives for students and researchers to undertake topics related to taxonomy. The Research Review Committee under active consideration of the BFWD can play a vital role by developing research plans that are based on gap analysis for all taxonomic groups.
Developing the Red List of Mammals of Balochistan
A Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (C.A.M.P.) Workshop for the Mammals of Pakistan assessed a total of 195 taxa of mammals including 13 sub-species) occurring in Pakistan using version 3 of 2001 of the IUCN Red List Criteria. It was the first and only attempt to prepare the Red List for mammals in Pakistan. The process adopted was preparation of information sheets for all published material on mammals of Pakistan and also for neighboring countries. These sheets were then distributed to national experts and institutions dealing with species conservation. The sheets were discussed in a marathon five-day workshop in which 45 mammalian experts and field biologists active in the field participated.
The current status for 2021 has been developed using the same process but due to budgetary and time constraints the column 5 has been developed by contacting experts in the field and in particular the field officers of Balochistan Wildlife Department and academia / R & D institutions.
The list of 195 mammals assessed in the CAMP workshop 2004 was again rechecked with the latest listing of IUCN the following changes Over the last 18 years (2003-2021) is given in table 2 below:
Nationally Determined Red List of Threatened and Vulnerable Species of Birds Unlike the mammalian species there has so far been no attempt to craft the Red List of birds of Pakistan/ Balochistan. For the purpose of this report and remaining within the limited budget and timeframe the methodology devised could not be line with the version 4 of the IUCN Guidelines for listing of species’ due to time and budgetary constraints.
However, the best option has been to develop the nationally determined Red List as provided in the 6 provincial Wildlife Laws of Pakistan. The step was reinforced with review of literature followed by preparation of the first of its kind nationally determined bird Red List as given in the table. This table shall be further improved by circulating and discussing with the relevant professionals both inside and outside the BFWD. The feedback collected shall be used to fine tune the list. The list that has been finalized is produced as below:
Table 3 Nationally Determined Red list status of Birds of Balochistan:
National/ Provincial Wildlife Database of Pakistan
The most authentic source for preparing National Wildlife Database for Pakistan is to extract the species enlisted in the Schedules of the provincial Wildlife legislation which are updated periodically and are based on authentic status of the species in the respective province. All the six enactments as listed below discern between ‘wild animal’ and ‘wildlife’. Wildlife laws mainly focus on dealing with the major threat and that is hunting and habitat destruction, and that too is focused on game animals mainly mammals and birds.
Fisheries enactments exist in all provinces with effective Fisheries departments either as part of the Wildlife Department or as a separate entity. For the purpose of this Report to enlist the database of wildlife of Pakistan tables 1 and 2 of this report provide the adequate information along with legal status of each wildlife species that meets the requirement of filed officers and decision makers as there does not exist any table having all wildlife of Pakistan with legal status in one place.