KARACHI: The Sindh government has not issued any special permits to hunt the rare migratory bird species houbara bustard in the province during the current hunting season, said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nisar Khuhro on Friday.
He was responding to the legislators’ queries during the Question Hour in the Sindh Assembly that pertained to the wildlife department in the absence of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who holds the portfolio. Though Mr Shah did arrive later, he still did not respond and Mr Khuhro continued.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) legislator Nadeem Rizvi questioned the number of permits issued by the Sindh government to Arab princes from the Gulf states to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustard. The minister said that the Sindh wildlife department has not issued any permit to any Arab prince or anyone else to hunt the houbara bustard. He said that houbara bustard hunting permits to the Gulf sheikhs were issued by the federal government and that the Sindh government had nothing to do with the issuance of the permits.
To another of his questions about the decreasing number of migratory birds coming to Pakistan owing to ruthless hunting, the minister said that he did not know about it. He said that the number of birds migrating to the country during winters every year depended on the weather conditions in Central Asia where, if the winters were harsh, more birds would migrate and if temperatures were moderate lesser birds would migrate. According to him, the lesser number of birds coming to the country did not depend on hunting.
MQM legislator Naheed Begum inquired about the smuggling of birds being foiled and smugglers being caught. The minister said that 56 falcons had been confiscated at Karachi airport in 2012, over 450 turtles were caught in 2014 in the city, and over 700 turtles were caught from Defence Housing Authority in 2016 while nine smugglers were also caught.
Responding to a question by Pakistan Peoples Party legislator Bahadur Dahri regarding the 56 falcons confiscated and if any wildlife traffickers had been caught and punished, the minister said that catching and protecting the falcons was important and that he did not have any information regarding the smugglers/punishment, but he would get the information and inform the assembly soon.
Nusrat Sahar Abbasi of Pakistan Muslim League-Functional questioned the efforts made to protect hyenas, how many hyenas were surviving and if a licence or permit was required to hunt them. The minister said that the number of surviving hyenas in the province was around 200 and that these were not protected under the law and, like snakes, no permit/licence was required to hunt/kill these animals.
Responding to a question by MQM legislator Kamran Akhtar regarding laying of a ‘white-oil’ pipeline through Khirthar National Park, the minister said that under an agreement the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) received Rs20 million and Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) received Rs10m for allowing Pakistan Arab Refinery Company (Parco) to lay down the oil pipeline between Port Qasim and Mehmoodkot, which passed through the national park. He said that various development works including construction of ponds, checking of dams, waterholes, tube wells, animal enclosures, etc were constructed and four vehicles — two double-cabin and two single-cabin pickups — were purchased to strengthen vigilance and patrolling in the national park for the protection of wildlife and preventing poaching.
Responding to a question by MQM legislator Mehfoozyar Khan and PTI member Khurram Sherzaman regarding weekly bird bazaars at Liaquatabad, Saddar and other places and if these were legal, the minister said that the SWD has issued only 46 dealer licences to animal/bird sellers. He said that raids were conducted routinely to check illegal wildlife/bird sellers.
Responding to a question by Sumeta Syed regarding bears, the minister said that grizzly and brown bears were not found in Sindh. He said that black bears were mostly found above the altitude of 8,000 feet from sea level — in Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — and brown bears were found above 8,000 feet and up to 16,000 feet from sea level, in Kashmir, KP and Gilgit-Baltistan.
MQM legislators Qamar Rizvi, Dewan Chawla, Hargundas Ahuja and Waqar Shah; PML-F legislator Rafique Bhanbhan; Seema Zia of PTI; and others also participated in the Question Hour.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2017