KARACHI: Smuggling of wild birds continues despite the increased vigilance of law enforcement agencies. Over 80 rare and endangered falcons, including 22 rare Saker falcons, have been rescued in less than 15 days. The continued smuggling of falcons has disturbed the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) officials.
Owing to extended travel, suffocation and starvation, two of the 22 seized falcons died on Sunday. SWD officials claim the others are healthy and will be released into the wild within the next few days.
The first bird died on the way to Karachi from Hyderabad, while the second, which was ill, died on Sunday afternoon. “The birds were starving and were almost ill when they reached Karachi,” the game officer, Abdul Rasheed Khan, said. He said that all the birds had been given check-ups by special doctors.
Read: Wildlife dept nabs five hunters, rescues as many falcons
Both the alleged smugglers, Wilayat Hussain and Tariq Aziz, have been handed over to the Artillery Maidan police. “I am innocent. I am not involved in transporting birds,” Aziz told The Express Tribune. “The smuggler was in the bus but managed to escape when it was being checked by the Rangers and other officials,” he claimed.
According to Aziz, transporting rare birds and animals from Peshawar to Karachi is very common. They usually transport not more than three birds in a single passenger coach at the same time but this was the first time that more than 20 birds were being shifted, he said.
“I am not guilty and not afraid of anything,” the driver of the Jeddah Coach Service claimed. He said that he had never been detained by law enforcement agencies before. “It feels odd that I have been arrested with birds,” he said.
Aziz was shifted to a hospital after developing a high-grade fever and then to the SWD office for a few hours.
“These drivers are equally responsible for the crime,” the SWD’s provincial conservator, Saeed Akhtar Baloch, said.
The SWD along with the Sindh Rangers caught 29 laggar falcons at the Jamshoro toll plaza early Sunday morning from a passenger coach. The officials earlier confiscated 22 rare falcons from the same point on Saturday morning.
The deputy conservator of SWD’s Hyderabad region, Ghulam Muhammad Gaddani, said that the smuggler was not travelling in the passenger coach, therefore, a fine of Rs15,000 was imposed on the driver for transporting the birds.
Wildlife experts believe that Karachi is a major market for birds and animals, from where they are smuggled out to other parts of the world. Most believe Sindh and Balochistan’s sea routes are used for this purpose.
“This proves that the high level smuggling of rare birds still continues,” a senior SWD official who wished to remain anonymous commented. “It also indicates how frequently wild species are being transported to Karachi.”
While speaking to The Express Tribune, the official said that Pakistan is the top in the region in regards to the population of rare birds and animals. “We have to make surveillance stronger. Smuggling brings a bad name to country,” he said.
Last year, two vessels full of rare birds and animals were seized by Iranian forces and, according to a top official of the SWD, the smugglers are still in the jail there.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2015.