ISLAMABAD, July 24: Extinction will be the ultimate fate for the currently endangered migratory birds flying through Pakistan due to widespread illegal hunting.
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Climate Change was disturbed to learn that bustards and the Siberian cranes are being hunted indiscriminately. Both species of the migratory birds flying into Pakistan from Siberia during the winter months are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cities) with 14,000 other endangered species in Pakistan including birds, other animals and plants.
During their first meeting on Tuesday, officials from the ministry briefed the standing committee about the new hunting trends in Pakistan. They described how locals have been shooting at flocks of Siberian cranes flying over head during winter with their AK-47 machine guns for leisure.
“It is illegal to hunt any animal species, particularly birds, in the country for pleasure and it's disappointing that it still happens - that people still don't see the benefits of wildlife,” the IG Forest, Ministry of Climate Change Saeed Mehmood Nasir said.
According to officials, the migratory birds escaped an extremely cold climate in Siberia and stopped over at various bodies of water scattered across Pakistan in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Northern Areas.
But, Siberian cranes are not the only species that the ministry was concerned about.
Officials from the ministry also explained how members of royal families from the Middle East, particularly those in Saudi Arabia, are often given licences to hunt endangered migratory birds, such as Bustards, despite the stringent restrictions.
The gathering observed that it was the Foreign Office that issued hunting licences, and that the Ministry on Climate Change and provincial environment departments are not involved.
“Although the number of migratory birds has been increasing, the ministry has continued to resist hunting endangered species,” said the IG Forest. However, he was unable to support his claim with research, reports or other documentary evidence.
Talking to Dawn, a senior official in the Ministry of Climate Change said that the Foreign Office in Islamabad has been issuing hunting permits for hunting in protected areas where Arab falconers indiscriminately hunt bustards. The official said that it was beyond his understanding why royal families are permitted to violate international laws such as Cities to which Pakistan was a signatory.
“It’s not just this government, but several governments that have failed to stop the illegal and indiscriminate hunting of bustards,” said the official. He also said that there is no record of the number of birds hunted every year.
“The licences do not restrict the number of animals or birds that can be hunted,” he added, explaining the helplessness of the Ministry of Climate Change when it comes to interfering in the matter. He explained how the Ministry was not on board from the time the contract was awarded, and did not have access to hunting grounds to keep track of the number of birds being killed.
Still, the Standing Committee on Climate Change, chaired by Dr Ghulam Haider Samejo, expressed concern over the indiscriminate hunting and has arranged a meeting for officials from the Foreign Office to respond to the matter.