Poachers’ paradise: Gulf hunt Pakistan hunts falcon trafficking

Poachers’ paradise: Gulf hunt Pakistan hunts falcon trafficking

KARACHI: Since learning to catch birds as a teenager, Muhammad Rafiq has trapped a small fortune in Pakistan and the falcon – trafficking falcons – including some endangered species – to wealthy Gulf Arabs.
A single hawk could fetch tens of thousands of dollars on a black market, which allowed Rafiq to renovate his family home.
“In every season, traders come from Karachi and leave their contacts with us, and we call them back if we catch anything,” said the 32-year-old from a nearby coastal village.
He recently trapped a Peregrine hawk on a week-long hunting mission.
“I was in dire need of money,” he said. “And God listened to me.”
For years Pakistan has stood on the eagle trade forays, as a source of hawk hunting and then as a destination to hunt with them.
According to the World Wildlife Fund in Pakistan, falcon poaching has been banned, but the demand for birds is increasing.
It estimates that last year alone more than 700 hawks were illegally smuggled out of the country, often by organized criminal networks.
Their destination is usually Gulf countries, where hawk is a treasured tradition.
Margit Muller, director of the Baz Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said the owners treat the birds “like their children”, treating 11,000 hawks annually, a number that has more than doubled in the past 10 years.
A conservationist told AFP that an Arab hawk usually owns five to six hundred birds, most of which will be caught in the wild in Pakistan or Mongolia.
Wild birds are prized for captives because they are considered superior predators, although there is no evidence to support those claims.
From the herds of the Gulf to the vast deserts of Pakistan, every winter, hunting teams, where they are allowed to use their hawks to hunt Hubara bastards, a migratory bird incorrectly acts as aphrodisiac And are classified by conservationists as unsafe.
These visits have put a spotlight on the deep ties between Pakistan and its allies in the Gulf.
For decades, the Gulf states have carried forward Islamabad’s Ramshakal finances with generous loans, with an expectation that they could continue to use Pakistan as a hunting ground.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and two other royals were allowed to capture Bustard by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government in December last year, when he was in opposition, Khan openly disagreed over a soft diplomatic strategy .
The government also gives Falcons as gifts to world leaders.
“Our officers are acting like pimps for Arabs,” a government official told AFP requesting anonymity.
A brief ban on Burst Hunt was lifted by the Supreme Court in 2016, but conservationists are now pushing to regulate the export of falcons in a case going on in the Islamabad High Court.
Every year, hawks survive harsh Siberian winters and fly thousands of miles in warmer regions, including southern Pakistan.
During the migratory season, wildlife smugglers land in villages along the Arabian Sea coastline, offering fishermen to abandon their boats and try their hand at poaching.
“We pay them in advance, send food to their families and if they catch a bird that is precious, we gladly give them a motorbike,” said a smuggler who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity Of.
A range of tactics can be employed – using viscous liquids, net traps or, most of all, small birds as bait.
The poachers specifically targeted the Peregrine Hawk, whose population is stable – but at the same time, endangered.
Bob Dalton, a veteran hawk conservationist, supervised the rehabilitation of dozens of hawks seized by Pakistani authorities in October, with officials estimating the value of the cash to be over $ 1 million.
“Illegal trade is growing, more money is being spent there, more searches from the Gulf,” he told AFP.
“With the exception of one or two species, most hawks are at a point of declining or unstable population.”
With ongoing efforts to curb large-scale poaching, some authorities in Pakistan have suggested regulating the falcon trapping market, fueled by another rare native species, the Markhor – an elusive mountain goat. Which is an elusive mountain goat with striking twisted horn found in the mountainous north of Pakistan.
Every year, foreigners spend thousands of dollars for a handful of trophy hunting permits, giving communities financial incentives to stop hunting.
Naeem Ashraf Raja, director of biodiversity at the Ministry of Climate Change, said the number of marquers has decreased as a result of this controversial conservation method.
With poaching teams landing in Pakistan again in the next few months, Pakistan Falconry Association President Kamran Khan Yousafzai said that the country is in dire need to implement a sustainable wildlife program.
“Arab hawks cannot resist coming to Pakistan. They have been coming to these hunting grounds for generations, and as long as they do not face any real problems, they are not going to discover new destinations.”

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