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