Two Qatar royals allowed to import and export 80 falcons
KARACHI: The federal government has issued special permits to two members of the ruling family of Qatar to import and export 80 falcons of endangered species for moulting purpose, it emerged here on Sunday.
Moulting, a natural process during which falcons shed their feathers and regrow new feathers.
Conservationists feared that as after the moulting the falcons would have different feathers, it would increase the risk of the falcons being replaced with strongers ones during their stay in the country.
Sources said that the special permit issued by the deputy chief of protocol (P&I) of the foreign ministry said that Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah bin Thani Al-Thani, a member of the royal family of Qatar, may import 50 falcons for moulting through Karachi airport.
Another special permit issued by the same official says that Sheikh Faisal bin Nasser Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar, may import 30 falcons for moulting.
The sources said the sheikh of Qatar — from where the government is importing liquefied natural gas under a controversial deal — made a request for the permit on Nov 18, 2015 and the next day the special permit was issued to him.
They said that earlier the federal government used to issue special permits to Arab sheikhs to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustards and the sheikhs carried out hunting with their falcons of endangered species — saker and peregrine.
The sources said that the hunters needed to change their older falcons with younger ones after every year or two, which the conservationists suspected was done during their stay in the country. But now the Supreme Court has imposed a ban on houbara bustards hunting.
Conservationists maintained that since houbara bustards hunting was banned there was no reason that the falcons were brought into the country as the falcons could moult at their royal abodes in Qatar.
The sources said that though the falcons were brought in on travel documents, passport etc and were physically checked — photographed, measured etc — by customs officials on arrival at the airport, customs officials were not wildlife experts. Besides, after moulting and change of feathers, the falcons would look different and it would be very difficult for the technically unqualified customs staffers to ensure that the falcons being taken out of the country were the same which were brought in.
Conservationists suggested that if allowing the sheikhs to bring in their falcons was so necessary, only those flacons could be allowed to be imported which had microchips implanted so that it could be easily ensured that they were the same falcons which were brought in.
The sources said the two Arab sheikhs were not the only ones who had been granted the falcon import-cum-export permits for moulting.
A few days earlier the foreign ministry issued three special import-cum-export permits for 200 falcons for moulting. Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was allowed to import 100 falcons while his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, was allowed to import 50 falcons and the emir’s brother Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani was also allowed to bring in 50 falcons.
The sources said that Pakistan was a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora and had to inform the CITES regarding trans-boundary movement of falcons. But the Switzerland-based secretariat of the CITES is not provided information regarding the falcons travels between Pakistan and the Arabian peninsula.