Migratory birds suffer as winter poaching starts
Three-month permission for shooting birds begins on 15th

Thursday, November 13, 2008
By Jan Khaskheli


Wildlife conservationists keeping a close eye on the illegal poaching of birds say that the winter hunting has been started in several areas of the province, especially water ducks and other migratory birds are falling prey to illegal hunters.

Reports gathered by The News from different parts reveal that the local influential people are killing and trapping migratory birds from lakes, deserts and mountainous areas. Millions of wild birds from Russia, Siberia and other Central Asian states migrate towards Pakistani waters every year at the onset of winter, usually starting in September. These birds leave their ice-covered lands and move thousands of miles away in order to escape the severe cold and the scarcity of food.

Almost 70 per cent of the migratory birds that enter Pakistan settle in at various wetlands of Sindh, while the rest stay behind in other provinces. Unfortunately, the birds escaping from the harsh winter weather are not safe here either as they could be hunted down any moment.

Hunting and netting of birds, both for recreation and for trade purposes are very common in the province. Hunters even kill the threatened and rare species, which are enlisted in the �Protected Species� of Sindh. These birds include houbara bustards, cranes, herons, pelicans, storks, spoonbills, flamingos, marbled teals, cotton teals, spotbill ducks, common shelducks and woodcocks. The influential people hailing from Gulf States also set up camps at different areas for hunting purposes.

In this regard, the wildlife conservationists clearly state that if the local wildlife officials dare to take an action against these influential people, they end up facing problems. At times they even lose their jobs, as the poachers are more powerful, having contacts with higher authorities.

Meanwhile, the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) issues a three-month permit annually, starting from November 15 to February 15 for shooting birds from wide-open areas. These birds include partridges, both black and brown and waterfowls like mallards, teals, pintails, shovellers, pochards and pigeons belonging to the duck family and shorebirds like curlew, whimbrels, shanks and godwits.

Each permit-holder can shoot a specific number of partridges and waterfowls, mentioned in the permit. They are restricted to shoot in the open on Sundays only. However, reports prove that despite a clear and comprehensive law regarding this issue, several poachers, especially the local landlords do not adhere to it. They hunt all kinds of bird species almost everyday and everywhere. Some of them arrange �hunt-parties�, inviting influential friends usually government officials and ministers to relish hunting at the specially designed hunt-sites during every season. They hunt countless birds at their leisure, openly violating the hunting rules and regulations, the conservationists say.

It is allegedly stated in the reports that the influential people are poaching birds in connivance with the local Wildlife officials. In this regard when the SWD Game Officer, Rashid Ahmed Khan was contacted he said that they don�t allow anybody to violate the law. He informed that recently the SWD team led by Conservator, Hussain Bakhsh Bhagat apprehended a car coming from Badin near Gujjo, Thatta district and recovered 110 water ducks, which were supposed to be smuggled illegally. The SWD imposed a fine of Rs15, 000 from the hunters and released the seized birds at Haleji Lake. Similarly, he said they also recovered eight falcons in a similar move, which were also released near the Karachi coast. However, the wildlife conservationists say that illegal hunting of birds is in practise at almost all the parts of the province.

The poachers approach the SWD officials deployed at different district headquarters in the province to get official shooting permits. The SWD head office issues and renews the permits and receives a prescribed fee.

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