Seized falcons released into wild, importer fined
KARACHI: After three days in captivity, the five falcons recently confiscated at the airport for being illegally imported from Dubai to Karachi were released on Wednesday in the Khirthar National Park near the Khar Centre in the presence of customs and wildlife department officials.
The delay in the birds’ release in the wild reportedly occurred due to some ‘issues’ between the customs and the wildlife department over their custody.
“It was a happy moment to see the birds finally being released and flying in the air where they actually belonged,” said deputy collector of Pakistan Customs at the airport Dr Ali Raza.
The importer, who had no legal documents to bring the birds of prey into Pakistan, had been fined Rs50,000 under the customs law, he added.
According to the officer, falcon’s import for hunting is not allowed though the bird can be brought in for moulting (a natural process during which falcons shed their old feathers and grow new ones) purposes.
“It’s a legal procedure for which the ministry of foreign affairs issues permits, the Federal Board of Revenue allocates a quota and the relevant embassies are taken on board.
“But, in this case, the importer didn’t have any of the required documents though he had declared the consignment in papers,” he explained.
Regarding the ‘issues’ with the wildlife department over the custody of birds and the importer, he said the latter was requested for presence at the ceremony for birds release, which they accepted.
“Matters which pertain to export and import come under the customs’ domain, which is a federally-run department and has its own laws,” he said.
The customs department had initially refused to hand over the birds and the importer to the wildlife department on the ground that ‘the required paperwork’ hadn’t been completed.
When the customs department approached the wildlife department after completing procedural formalities, the latter refused to send the staff, asking for a request letter for further process by the wildlife department. But the customs department finally sent a letter requesting the wildlife department to attend the birds release ceremony.
According to sources, the ‘rivalry’ between Pakistan Customs and the Sindh wildlife department over the custody of illegal imports is pretty old.
In 2013, the customs authorities handed over 31 pythons seized at the Karachi airport directly to the zoo without involving the wildlife department.
Customs officials contended that they were authorised by law to hand over illegally confiscated animals to any government facility for safe-keeping. Besides, they said, the wildlife department had no facility to keep wild animals.
In another such incident the same year, the customs department refused to hand over 250 African grey parrots, which had been confiscated for being illegally imported from Congo, to the wildlife department. The matter couldn’t be taken up further, as the importer managed to acquire a no-objection certificate the next day from the federal government.
Nevertheless the customs authorities also warned the wildlife department of action while accusing it of inefficiency in a correspondence in March 2013 when the latter asked them to hand over the offender, his papers and 31 pythons/snakes which they had confiscated.
During the same year, six illegally imported lemurs were also directly handed over to the zoo.
According to experts, delays in releasing animals in a safe area in the past also had put their life in danger in the past. Many of such confiscated animals died in harsh conditions or were reported sick. Also, there has always been a risk with imported birds carrying infections, said an expert. “Hence, they should be initially kept at a state-of-the-art quarantine facility before their release in the wild,” he added.