BIODIVERSITY is a valuable natural asset that keeps the ecosystem of our planet balanced. Undomesticated animal species have been fighting for their survival since day one because of the misuse of human beings. Animal rights provide ideological and legal shelter to the philosophical narrative that animals also have the right to live like human beings and they ought to be free of human misuse as well as exploitation. Certain laws have also been ratified at national and international levels for the protection of endangered species. However, the extinction rate of different species is growing higher with passage of time. Similarly, there are a number of species in Pakistan that are facing fast extinction because of so-called medication purposes and socially constructed phenomena, Sanda Lizards are one of them.
The oil is made out of Sanda Lizard through a very painful process. The reptile is captured from different parts of Sindh and Punjab in thousands of numbers. Captors cut their stomachs and remove their internal organs by putting the corpse in a heated fry pan. The oil is sold in markets against the amount of Rs 100 per 10 grams.
In Pakistan, certain misconceptions have prevailed in the middle and lower classes about the oil made by killing the Sanda Lizard. The oil is used for sexual purposes. The oil of one lizard is sold for 5 to 8 dollars. The socially-constructed misconception has been proving dangerous for the reptile for many decades. Because of this misconception, the Sanda Lizard is on the verge of extinction. Unfortunately, no measures have been taken by successive governments of Pakistan for the protection of this undomesticated animal. To overcome infertility, the species is being killed and tortured physically with brutal tactics for the preparation of oil especially after the government outlawed Viagra.
The Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation & Management) Amendment Act 2007 has been implemented to meet international commitments regarding the protection, conservation and preservation of domestic and undomesticated animals under the International Convention for the Protection of Animals. However, unfortunately, the species has not been included in the list of protected species. That is the main reason that hunting of Sanda Lizard is unchecked and the criminal liability being committed by hunters goes unreported because of the absence of legal status regarding the ban of this lizard.
Firstly, Pakistan’s government should add the lizard and other neglected species to the list of protected animals so that the ban, killing, torture and selling of this specie can be banned legally. Secondly, Pakistan should take the American mechanism regarding the protection of animals as a role model by setting up a separate law and enforcement agency in the shape of an Animal Protection Police like the U.S.A. Animal Protection Police works for law enforcement to protect animals by prosecuting abusers, monitoring pet shops and rescuing injured or abandoned animals. Creating an animal police in Pakistan would enhance the quality of life of animals and control the overpopulation of street animals, creating a safer environment for all.
In US, animal care and control centres of each state protect public safety and ensure humane care of animals through sheltering, pet placement, education and animal law enforcement. When a report of animal abuse is received, centre sends officers to investigate, and they can remove the animals and arrest perpetrator. The punishment can vary from fines to incarceration, and animal is placed in a shelter or a foster home until a family adopts it.
To adopt an animal from a shelter, there is a process in which the interested family is interviewed to make sure that the animal will be secured and protected. So, Pakistan should also establish Animal Care and Control centres at the provincial level. Special attention should also be given to creating awareness in public regarding wildlife laws and animal rights with special reference to the international commitments of Pakistan under the International Convention for the Protection of Animals.
—Adv Changezi Sandhu is a Lahore-based practicing lawyer and human rights activist. Nhora Elvira Gomez is a Chicago-based researcher and senior teacher at Williams Prep of Medicine High School, Chicago, US.