Chakwal: Bid to smuggle falcons foiled
CHAKWAL: In what seemed like a plot out of a Punjabi movie, with stereotypical music in the background, a gang of poachers with powerful connections, in an entourage of vehicles, were caught by the Faisalabad Wildlife authorities. The poachers were trying to smuggle 63 falcons and dozens other birds. The smugglers were carrying a stash of weapons and cash. The poachers had taken for granted that in case they were stopped, they would influence or bribe the wildlife officials and get away with it. In order to dupe the wildlife authorities they had hidden the birds in an ambulance, which was one of the vehicles in the entourage.
But providence seemed to be on the side of the birds. In a reversal of fortune, within hours the roles stood reversed: birds were released and the smugglers stood handcuffed. The smugglers, hand tied, somnolently watched the birds take flight, when the officials released them from captivity.
The smugglers were planning to smuggle them to Dubai, but fate had other plans. The birds are now flying free over Pakistani skies.
Wildlife officials released the falcons in the jungles of Kallar Kahar, near Wasnal village, some 40km away from Chakwal city. Other precious birds included four houbara bustards, 30 pigeons and more than four dozens drakes.
Falcons worth millions of rupees, belonged to the Saker and peregrine Species. “The price of each bird ranges from one to two million rupees,” Deputy Director (publicity) of Wildlife Department Punjab, Azhar Khalid told Dawn.
The birds and smugglers were presented before the court of Judicial Magistrate of Faisalabad Asif Nool on Monday, who according to an official of wildlife department imposed a fine of Rs240,000 on the poachers and ordered the release of the birds in Chakwal area.
The operation of releasing the falcons lasted roughly three hours. Judicial Magistrate Asif Nool, Deputy Director of Wildlife Department Faisalabad Mian Mohammad Ajmal, Deputy Director (publicity) of Wildlife Department Punjab, Azhar Khalid, Deputy Director Wildlife Department Chakwal Rana Shahbaz, District Wildlife Officer Chakwal Khalid Sahi and other concerned officers were present on the occasion, when the birds were released.
Lamenting on the lack of coordination among different institutions of the provinces, a wildlife official said in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa permission for hunting falcons is given but in Punjab the hunting of falcons and other rare birds is banned. “It is need of the hour that all provinces adopt the same kind of law to protect wildlife,” he urged.