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WWF-Russia alerts conservationists to Saker Falcon in Balochistan

Jamal ShahidUpdated October 20, 2018

Saker Falcon. — Courtesy WWF Russia

ISLAMABAD: A Saker Falcon fitted with a satellite tracking device by the World Wide Fund (WWF) Russia for research purposes was caught by trappers in Balochistan some 10 days ago.

Declared endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the falcon was bred in captivity and fitted with a satellite tracking device as conservationists were interested in studying the bird’s 5,000km plus migratory journey from Siberia all the way down to the coast of Pakistan.

However, the bird’s prolonged stationary position drew the attention of WWF Russia conservationists who shared their concerns with their counterparts in Islamabad and requested they check why the bird was not moving.

Local wildlife officials set out to find the endangered falcon but found that it had been caught in Loralai.

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Over the next few days, trackers in Russia kept WWF Pakistan posted on the satellite position of the falcon, which was taken to Zhob and pinpointed its last location to a house in the village of Kolachi, D.I. Khan, a no-go area for many due to the deteriorating law and order situation.

WWF Pakistan said the trappers did not initially risk removing the tracking device which was attached to the bird surgically.

“The device does not affect the falcon’s flight or hinder it while it is chasing prey at full speed. But there is a risk of injuring it if the device is not removed by experts. The trappers would have had no use for the bird if it could not fly,” said WWF Pakistan Manager Research and Conservation Jamshed Iqbal Chaudhry.

Earlier this week, wildlife officials reached the house where the device was still beeping.

However, the bird had been sold and smuggled out of Pakistan into the Middle East.

Some 600 to 700 different species of falcons, including those smuggled from Afghanistan are traded through D.I. Khan, which is the hub for illegal trade in falcons and other illegally trapped birds, according to the Ministry of Climate Change.

Birds and animals are trafficked through ports and even airports, reducing the breeding population in defiance of international law on trading in endangered species.

Pakistan is signatory to international treaties such as the Convention on Conservation of Birds of Prey and the Convention of Migratory Species and also has local laws for the protection of endangered species.

“Trapping of falcons, especially Saker, is prohibited under law since 2005 to ensure the survival of the species,” he told Dawn.

He was also critical of the government which allowed 100 falcons to be exported to rich families in Qatar and another 150 to the UAE. Sakers, which are bigger than the Peregrine Falcon, are prized for their boldness and ferocity in attacking large prey.

“We need to revere nature as part of life. There have to be other ways to sustain diplomatic relations,” he said.

With the rising demand for birds of prey in the Middle East, especially Saker, their trapping in Pakistan has also increased year after year.

“A wildlife crime is being committed. Ever thought of a time when most wild animals would never be seen? That could be true for the Saker falcon in the near future,” the official warned.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2018


https://www.dawn.com/news/1440137

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