As Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal is out of the country, Khadija Hayat, who is dealing with the media in his absence, said she was not aware of any decision to allow the export of falcons to the UAE.
When contacted, she said it was not possible for her to comment on the permission letter before getting an official response from the authorities concerned.
“I will have to send the request in writing and it might take some time to get a written response. However, I will try to get the information verbally and will get back to you,” she said.
However, Ms Hayat did not reply till filing of this report.
Pakistan Wildlife Foundation Chairman Safwan Shahab Ahmed told Dawn that it was not the first time that the export of falcons had been allowed. Such approvals were given on a number of occasions in the past too, he said.
“The names of species are never mentioned in the approval letters due to which no one knows what kind of birds are being exported. At least the names of species should be mentioned in the letters. Moreover, the customs staff should be capable of identifying the birds,” he said.
There are five types of most trafficked birds of prey - saker falcon (falco cherrug), shaheen falcon (falco peregrinus peregrinator), laggar falcon (falco jugger), peregrine falcon (falco peregrinus) and golden eagle (aquila chrysaetos).
“These are used to prey birds, especially houbara bustard, but naturally they play an important role in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem. They prey on a number of small mammals, fishes and birds. Each falcon is sold for an average of Rs10 million. We speak about it but no one listens to us,” Mr Ahmed said.
He added that falcons were migratory rather than endemic birds in Pakistan and they come through two routes.
“The first rout is through Central Asian countries and is called the Indus fly zone and the second starts from Africa through which the birds reach Balochistan via Yemen and the Arabian Sea. According to estimates, less than 500 falcons reach Pakistan every year. We have suggested that transmitters should be tied with the birds to ensure their protection through a real time monitoring,” he said.
Mr Ahmed said though Pakistan had signed a number of international conventions to protect birds, three more steps associated with the ratification, including legislation, were yet to be taken.
“Pakistan should stop exporting the birds. If it cannot refuse the influential, the FO should mention the biological names of the birds while allowing their exports. Moreover, the customs officials should be trained so that they would identify the birds,” he said.