The falcons’ eyes are stitched shut and their wings tied so they cannot escape
At least 12 laggar falcons were rescued by officials of the Sindh wildlife department during a raid in the hilly areas of Jamshoro district near the Indus river.
Five suspects were also detained in the raid that was conducted late on Sunday night. Acting on a tip-off, a team comprising officials of the wildlife department’s Hyderabad region conducted the raid near Petaro College, where they found 12 laggar falcons. Besides some pigeons and trapping, the officials (SWD) also seized a 400-foot-net from the hunters.
According to wildlife officials, soon after the raid was conducted, the officials were contacted by local influential people of the area in a bid to pressure them to release the suspects along with the birds. “This is a common factor when such raids are conducted and hunters, along with birds, are taken into custody,” explained the deputy conservator, Ghulam Muhammad Gaddani.
Gaddani added that local landlords had pressurised his team to release the hunters and birds or be ready to face the consequences. He said that such raids at the time of the local government elections are considered a very serious act.
All five persons, who hailed from Mianwali, were released after a few hours. Gaddani said that a Rs40,000 fine, according to the Sindh Wildlife Act, was imposed on the hunters, who paid it immediately.
The accused were identified as Gulzaman Khijar, Muhammad Bilal Khijer, Arif Gul, Muhammad Mumtaz Saand and Khan Bahadur Khattak.
Scores of hunters set up camps in different areas in October and November before and after the arrival of the migratory birds. Illegal hunting of birds, according to the wildlife officials, is common in districts of the southern belt, such as Badin, Thatta, Sajawal and Hyderabad, which are located along the river.
The hunters, an official told The Express Tribune, are not only facilitated by local landlords and influential persons but also officials of the wildlife department, who are also involved in these illegal activities. “The locals get a share when these hunters earn good money,” explained one official. “Our [wildlife] officials give the hunters the assurance of free movement in the area,” he added. Some game wardens too support these illegal activities in the peak season.
The eyelids of all falcons were stitched shut. Their legs are tied together with their wings, after which they are left in an open area. “The other birds are trapped when they see the captive bird struggling and fly down to it,” Gaddani explained. “It is one of the cruelest forms of hunting but it is very common nowadays,” he added.
The official said that these illegal camps are set up to capture the rare and endangered species of falcons, including Shaheen and Saker Falcons.
This was the third raid in the last 10 days by the team of Hyderabad region. On October 1, the team conducted a raid near Aamri, an area of Sehwan Sharif in district Jamshoro. During the raid, they caught five hunters red-handed and rescued three laggar falcons as well as over a dozen pigeons. The next morning, another team conducted a raid in Badin, near the Arabian Sea. Two laggar falcons were rescued. Officials claimed, however, that the culprits managed to escape before the team arrived at the spot.
The laggar falcons, according to experts, were once quite common in the region but their population has declined recently, presumably due to over-hunting and unfavourable breeding conditions.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.