By Mohammad Niaz
materialistic approach to resource utilisation often proves harmful.
Similarly, our natural resources are being exploited in such a way
that they are fast disappearing into nothingness. No different is the
case with some falcons in our part of the world.
The saker falcon, which is an endangered animal
according to the IUCN red list, is a bird of prey that inhabits
steppes, sub-desert and open terrain of East Europe, Central Asia,
Russia, China and Mongolia. For centuries falcons have been used in
falconry. It is an art of hunting wild prey with trained falcons and
hawks. It is practised in the Middle East and Asia.
Falcons are trapped in the autumn and are used for
hunting in the winter after receiving a special kind of training. In
search of better hunting prospects, falconers in the Middle East often
come to Pakistan or Iran in the hunting season.
Certain wild falcons are exposed to illegal trade at
the hands of those who try and fetch high prices for them. According
to an estimate of the Birdlife International, of these the majority
(77 per cent) is believed to be juvenile female falcons, followed by
19 per cent adult females, three per cent juvenile males and one per
cent adult males.
The saker (falco cherrug) and the peregrine (falco
peregrinus) are the two main species used for hunting and
traditional falconry. The saker is popular because it is good for
desert hawking. Comparatively, the female, being brave, larger and
more powerful than the male, performs well during hunting.
Sakers are trapped illegally in the autumn, the time
the birds’ young ones leave their nests, and migration starts. People
having links with traders travel through various routes to reach the
Middle East and trap these birds. During the transit process they hide
these birds in garments or vessels or other such things because of
which many birds die. To have a majestic trophy of the royal birds the
unsold ones are sometimes killed for the purpose of
stuffing/taxidermy. Most of these birds come from Russia, Kazakhstan,
Mongolia, China, Afghanistan, Kirghizstan and Pakistan.
According to a conservative estimate, about 9,000
falcons are used for falconry with an estimated 3,000 trapped wild
saker and peregrine falcons. Due to the illegal trade, the saker
falcon is facing a perilous situation and is fighting a grim battle
for its survival.
Recently, there has been great decline in falcons’
number. According to some estimates, in the past 15 years there has
been 53-75 per cent decline in their wild population. Consequently,
certain falcons are increasingly becoming rare. These include saker
falcon (falco cherrug), peregrine falcon (falco perigrinus)
and gyr falcon (falco rusticolus) which are largely used in
falconry. These species are listed in the CITES Appendix I or II in
which commercial trade is either not allowed or allowed only with
The CITES stands for the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. It is, in fact,
an international/inter-governmental agreement, which aims to ensure
that any international trade in wild animals and plants species does
not threaten their survival. Although the saker is listed as
‘endangered’ in many countries, it is traded both legally and
illegally. The saker is on Appendix II of the CITES which allows for a
legal international trade, regulated by signatory countries. All
listed species are classified into three appendices according to the
threat factors. Appendix I species are the most endangered. Gyrfalcon
(falco rusticolus) and the peregrine (falco peregrinus)
are on this list. The saker is listed in Appendix II — species that
are not currently threatened with extinction but may become so due to
To avoid any irregularity falcon registration with the
authorities is a must. It requires information about the owner and his
bird including sex, breed, country of origin, captive bred or wild and
requires CITES documents for any legal transit. The falcon is then
issued a passport and government ring. A microchip (passive induced
transponder — PIT) carrying an identification number is also implanted
in each bird.
On account of over trapping besides other threatening
factors, important species of falcons are in danger of extinction.
However, in Pakistan, in light of the present grim scenario of falcon
trade, the CITES has imposed a ban on trapping, importing and
exporting of falcons.
Conservation of the wild population of these noble and
majestic birds is badly needed. Today, conservation of the saker
falcon is an urgent ecological issue that demands immediate attention
of the authorities concerned. There is a need to take more stringent
measures to protect these birds, especially the endangered saker
Wildlife of Pakistan-All Rights Reserved.
February 25th, 2007