Markets buzz with migratory birds facing extinction threat

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Migratory birds, turning towards the forests of Pakistan are becoming prey to hunters with cooperation of officials from the wildlife department, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Climatic conditions of the region at this time of the year become favourable for birds including and not limited to, Hawks, Eagles, Wild Ducks, Quails, Partridge, Doves, Golden Snipes and Geese. Their arrival however has initiated a hunters’ fest around Head Qadirabad Barrage which also seems to be an opportune moment for wildlife department officials to warm their pockets. Head Qadirabad Barrage, referred to as “Game Sanctuary” by authorities, is presently a hub for illegal hunting, posing severe threats of extinction to the already endangered species arriving from different parts of the world.
Shahid, a local resident, said that despite a ban, hunters readily captured the mentioned birds and sold them openly in markets. He said in some cases these birds are even smuggled abroad. Quail, which migrates from Russia at this time of the year, can be hunted by paying Rs 10,000 to wildlife officials, he said. Audio tapes with recorded animal sounds can be obtained from officials to tempt birds which are eventually trapped into hundreds of feet long pre- installed nets.
Rustum, a professional hunter, said that unimpeded hunting took place in Gujrat, Wazirabad, Qadirabad, Bado Malhi, Shakar Garh ,Wahndu, Narowal and Narang Mundi where anyone could get a pardon by paying the “game watchers” an amount of Rs 10,000. The authorities, he added, offered packages whereby one is given a license to hunt Deer and Wild Rabbits in exchange for delivering rare bird species. According to his estimate, a total of 60 hunt-teams were active in and around the stretches from Head Qadirabad Barrage to Khanki Barrage and Head Maralla, on one side and from Narang Mandi to Shakargarh on the other. “People are not hunting these birds down. They are capturing them by installing large nets. Everyone knows where these birds are sold. It’s common knowledge,” he added.
Bao, a dealer in birds, said that people sold him these birds on bargained rates which he re-sold at a higher price depending on the demand of particular species. He further said that often the officials from wildlife department themselves sold these birds to dealers. The approximate prices of some of these birds is reported as follows; a goose at Rs 1,500, a duck somewhere between Rs 300 to Rs 800 depending on the breed, an adult Black Partridge at Rs 2,500 while a juvenile at Rs 500, a dove at Rs 70 and a wild pigeon at Rs 300. Ghrajhaki Darwaza, Kucha Darwaza, Thanawala Bazaar, Sialkoti Darwaza and Nosherhra Road are big markets for Quail, Wild Pigeons and Ducks, said Bao, from where they find their way to hotels and restaurants that present these birds on their menus as special eateries.
District wildlife officer Gujranwala, on being questioned, denied any involvement in illegal hunting or smuggling of these birds and insisted that the department was active in saving these endangered species from extinction.