KARACHI: The federal government is learnt to have issued special permits to the emir of Qatar, his father and a brother to import and re-export 200 falcons of highly rare and endangered species for moulting purposes during the current year.
Moulting is a natural process during which falcons shed their aged feathers and re-grow young feathers.
Conservationists fear there were high chances that the falcons could be changed by hunters during their stay in the country and, therefore, such permits should not be issued.
According to sources, the migratory falcons – saker and peregrine – are used by Arabs to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustard, whose meat is considered to be an aphrodisiac, though not supported by any scientific research.
The sources said the permits issued (on Nov 16) by the foreign ministry allowed Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to import and then re-export 100 falcons, his father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani 50 and brother Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani 50 falcons.
This is the first time that the import-cum-export permits for falcons for moulting purposes have been issued to Arab dignitaries. Earlier, the government used to issue special permits to Arab royals to bring in their own falcons to hunt houbara bustard in Pakistan.
According to the sources, the hunters are accused of bringing in aged flock of falcons and replacing them with younger ones during their stay/hunt in Pakistan. They said that all paper work, including photographs of falcons, their passports and entry to the country, were carried out, but since customs officials had limited knowledge about wildlife, they didn’t bother to check if the young falcons were taken out of the country.
The conservationists have been demanding of the government to use advanced technology to counter the lack of knowledge or connivance of custom officials and allow entry into the country only those falcons which have microchip implanted on them. Details of the microchip can be easily examined through a scanner.
The sources said the only method currently being used by the customs to check and ensure that the same bird was being taken out of the country was photographs, measurements and physical checking of the bird. This method is of no use because after the shedding of old feathers and growth of new feathers during the moulting process a falcon looks/measures different and its physical examination becomes even more doubtful.
The conservationists urged the government not to issue import-cum-re-export permits because the falcons could undergo their natural moulting process while staying in their abodes in the Arabian Peninsula.
If the falcons were changed by the hunters during their stay here, they said, the country would be violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, which controlled and monitored the international travel of the rare and endangered species.
Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2015