A Saudi prince has been granted a special permit by the federal government to export globally protected and rare falcons. Violating its international commitments and national wildlife protection laws, sources told local media.
Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the governor of the Saudi province of Tabuk, has been permitted to export 10 falcons, the sources added.
The issuance of the permit by the government was “promoting illegal wildlife trade / trafficking” and had “put at risk Pakistan’s access” to the highly lucrative European Union market under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP-Plus) facility, the sources stressed.
The Prince, last year attracted global media attention when reports about his hunting of 2,100 houbara bustards in Chagai district of Balochistan surfaced. They alleged that Prince Fahd used falcons, particularly those belonging to migratory saker and peregrine species, in hunting the rare and internationally protected houbara bustard.
The foreign ministry, in a communication of 12 October, informed the embassy of Saudi Arabia about the issuance of the permit and said the authorities concerned had been requested to facilitate the export. Copies of the letter have been sent to Wildlife Conservator of the climate change division Umeed Khalid, the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue and the foreign ministry’s deputy chiefs of protocol in Karachi and Islamabad.
Prince Fahad was issued two exports permits last year by the federal government. One for eight falcons and the other for 10 birds, the sources added.
The sources said that earlier permits for houbara bustard hunting and falcon export carried the names of the foreign ministry’s officials issuing the permits. But Prince Fahd’s current permit does not carry the name of any official.
They said the precaution had been taken to avoid complications because a few weeks ago the Supreme Court had ordered the government not to issue houbara bustard hunting permits.
The export, trading and trapping of saker and peregrine falcons has been banned under the provincial wildlife protection laws. The country has no designated market where the birds can be bought and sold as falcon trapping is also banned.
In the absence of a designated falcon market, an underground market is thriving, according to the sources. The price of a falcon ranges between Rs10 million and Rs100 million.
Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora and the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). The latter is an inter-governmental treaty aimed at conserving terrestrial, marine and avian species across their migratory range. Recently the Saker Falcon Global Action Plan was adopted by CMS signatories at a meeting in Ecuador.
A federal law, the Pakistan Trade Control of Fauna and Flora Act 2012, also restricts any trade in falcons.
Conservationists have called for cancellation of falcon export permit issued to Prince Fahd.