KARACHI: Sindh Wildlife Department staff raided a flat located in the commercial area of Khayaban-i-Badr, DHA, on Tuesday and seized six falcons.

All species of falcons are endangered and protected under the provincial law.

“Four saker falcons and two peregrine falcons were found in the custody of a person identified as Mureed Abbas, who was fined Rs50,000 after registration of a first offense report,” said wildlife field officer Karachi Mumtaz Soomro, adding that the birds had been brought from Punjab.

The falcons, currently kept in the Karachi wildlife office, would be released on Wednesday in the Kirthar National Park.

This is the third falcon seizure over the past few weeks, bringing the total number of falcons seized so far in three raids to 21.

Earlier, 15 falcons were confiscated; eight at Empress Market with water fowl and tortoises and seven in a passenger bus at Toll Plaza on the Superhighway.

“While some species of falcons are hunted in Pakistan during their winter stay in the country, these birds are also captured in Afghanistan, brought to Sindh via Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and then smuggled out to the Middle Eastern countries such as Dubai,” Mr Soomro explained, highlighting efforts of his department in detaining traffickers.

Described as the fastest flying bird, the peregrine falcon is a raptor and able to dive at 200 miles per hour. It’s found in every continent except Antarctica.

A large species of falcon, the saker falcon is mainly migratory except in the southernmost parts of its range, wintering in Ethiopia, the Arabian peninsula, northern Pakistan and western China.

Recent media reports suggest that nearly 5,000 to 6,000 falcons are trapped and smuggled out of Pakistan every year and sold to Arab sheikhs in the Middle East.

Studies show that there has been a significant decline in their wild population over the past 15 years in the country. Certain falcon species are becoming rarer, most significantly the saker and peregrine falcons, which are largely used in falconry.

“Increasing interest in falconry from the Middle East is encouraging smugglers to trap these birds alive. As such, the illegal trade is a primary threat to numerous species of falcons within Pakistan,” says the WWF-P website.

Internationally, intensified use of pesticides has been identified as a major threat to their population.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2017