Karachi: 8 falcons being taken to Bahrain seized
KARACHI: The customs officials have seized eight falcons of a Bahraini royal family member on suspicion that they have been changed during a visit here, Dawn has learnt. A passenger was taking these falcons by a flight to Bahrain a few days ago, sources said. Responding to Dawn queries on Sunday, customs assistant collector at the Jinnah International Airport Rana Aftab said that a few days ago a passenger, Salim Eid Rafeea Thani, brought 29 falcons and presented a document issued by the foreign ministry saying that the falcons belonged to a Bahraini royal family member, Sheikh Ahmed Ali Abdullah Isa Al–Khalifa, and he was taking the birds to Bahrain.
The customs official said that when the customs sleuths minutely checked the migratory falcons of the highly rare and endangered species, it was found that out of the 29 falcons eight had been changed, as they were different from those that had been brought in to the country by the Bahrain dignitary earlier.
When the passenger could not satisfy customs queries, the 29 falcons were seized. However, he said that 21 falcons seemed to be those that had been brought into the country earlier.
He said that on the passenger’s request the customs officials agreed to release the 21 birds, which were not disputed, provided that the passenger brought in new documents from the foreign ministry regarding the travelling of the 21 falcons.
A couple of days later, the passenger brought a new document from the foreign ministry saying that the falcons were owned by Bahraini royal family member Sheikh Ahmed Ali Abdullah Isa Al–Khalifa and that the passenger was carrying 21 falcons.
After scrutinising the documents and the re-examination of the 21 undisputed falcons, they were allowed to leave the country.
Now the passenger, Salim Eid Rafeea Thani, and a representative from the Bahrain consulate general had been told to come to the airport on Monday when the final decision regarding the eight seized falcons would be taken, added the customs official.
The sources said that Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali al–Khalifa, whose falcons had been seized, had been granted a special permit to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustards in Hyderabad district with Matiari.
This was the second time that a Bahraini dignitary was caught in the controversy relating to change of falcons — that they were trying to take back different falcons than the ones which they had brought in to Pakistan from Bahrain.
In the first instance, a Bahraini dignitary was trying to take out seven rare falcons that he had brought into the country just a day earlier, in November.
The falcons were seized and later confiscated by customs officials. Saker and peregrine falcons are residents of colder central Asian regions and to avoid harsh weather conditions back home, they migrate southwards to the subcontinent to spend their winters in the comparatively warmer environment here.
Owing to their dwindling population, trapping and netting of, and trading in, of falcon species has been banned under the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance.
Despite the ban during their brief stay here the birds are caught in large numbers and subsequently sold in black market to hunters.