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Flight of the falcons

Six falcons out of the 11 caught by the Pakistan Customs in November last year were released back into the wild in the Khirthar National Park on Thursday afternoon in the presence of independent observers. The remaining five falcons had died in the custody of the customs department.

The release of migratory falcons which were of highly rare saker and peregrine species had been delayed because the wildlife trafficker from whom the falcons were caught had moved the court to obtain their custody. However, when he could not provide legal documents, the court ordered customs officials to proceed with the case. Consequently, the falcons were confiscated and later released on Thursday.

Eleven falcons had been apprehended from Saeed Ahmed by customs officials during a snap check for smuggled vehicles in Phase IV of the Defence Housing Society on Nov 21, 2012.

Mr Ahmed had showed customs officials a permit issued by the Sindh wildlife department allowing him to keep the falcons in his possession on behalf of a UAE national, Demaithan Sowaidan Saeed Hilal.

Customs official Inamullah Wazir asked Mr Ahmed to provide a record of when the birds had entered Pakistan and a re-export permit issued by the foreign ministry. Subsequently, Mr Ahmed provided a letter from the UAE consulate in Karachi certifying that 10 falcons had been brought in by Demaithan Sowaidan Saeed Hilal, a party member of the Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, a member of the royal family in Dubai, but did not provide the arrival record of both UAE nationals.

However, Amjad Zaffar of the UAE consulate called the customs department and informed them that the consulate wished to withdraw the certification.

The officials again asked Mr Ahmed to provide the required record but he didn’t.

In the meantime, Mr Ahmed had moved the court to obtain custody of these falcons, which were in the custody of customs department, and hearings had started. The court directed custom officials not to release the birds till the case was settled. Mr Ahmed was again given a chance to provide required legal documents but he failed to do so. Hence, after a few hearings and passage of sufficient time, the court ordered customs department to deal with the case.

Even then, customs official Omar Shafiq gave one more chance to Mr Ahmed for showing possession documents, record of the birds’ arrival in the country and the re-export permit issued by the foreign ministry. Since Mr Ahmed couldn’t do so again, the falcons — six remained since five falcons had died in the custody of customs department — were confiscated and a fine of Rs100,000 was imposed on Mr Ahmed.

On Thursday afternoon, customs officials released the six confiscated falcons near the Khar Wildlife Centre.

The customs officials plan to donate the five dead birds to the wildlife department or another educational institution, where the falcons may be stuffed and used for display or educational purposes. -Text by Bhagwandas, photos by agencies


Comments (7) Closed

Ghulam Bajwa Jan 26, 2013 06:08pm
The hunting of this extinct bird should be banned and unlawful exporters must be severely punished. Pakistani government allows their masters to capture these rare falcons to please them.
saadali Jan 26, 2013 01:02am
how do custom official justify death of endangered species??!! they were better alive in the hands of Mr Wahid!!
NAJEEB AHMED Jan 25, 2013 06:56pm
i really appreciate the decision of the court . this decision gave me a great pleasure and i am very happy to see these innocent birds free. definitely these birds will pray for all the persons who were involved in the process of releasing these falcons.
Malik Jan 25, 2013 12:40pm
Should have left the falcons with the trafficker. At least they would not have died. Pakistani Government at its best.
yahya Khan Jan 25, 2013 12:23pm
This is very unfortunate that the wealth of Pakistan is being smuggled in this manner. The punishment of the culprit should have been more severe as price of 1 falcon ranges between 1 - 10 million.
Dr. Anees Chaudhry Jan 25, 2013 01:19pm
This issue is not only sad but exposes another side of gross incompetence of Pakistan Customs, which remained unable to provide the required ambiance for the rare falcons. We are talking five (5) birds died. Not one but five. This is gross negligence. Wild Life Department should take necessary stops infuse some sense of sanity in Pakistan Customs to safeguard similar incidence in the future.
Adeel Jan 25, 2013 05:26pm
These birds look like they are in very poor health- skinny, with molting feathers and patchy wings. Perhaps they should have been nursed back to health under professional care before being released?