Migratory Birds Being Sold For Meat At Keenjhar Lake -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Migratory birds being sold for meat at Keenjhar Lake

Pakistan Press Foundation

KEENJHAR: Hundreds of migratory birds, which make their way to the south of Pakistan during the winters, are unable to return as they are being sold for meat at Keenjhar Lake.

Despite a ban on their trade and multiple arrests of the men involved, the illegal business thrives near the second largest freshwater lake in the country. At least 200 migratory birds are sold near the lake every day by residents who set up shop on the main road between Thatta and Hyderabad.

Some of the common birds found on the roadside are mallard, common teal, pochard, common pochard, gadwall, marbled teal and geese. These birds, which originate from Siberia, use the Indus Flyway route to migrate to the warmer coastal areas of Pakistan. This centuries-old route starts from parts of Russia and follows River Indus from Tibet all the way to Thatta.

“I can give you a discount, sir,” said one of the traders, Muhammad Khan, as he spoke to a customer. The price of the bird varies from one trader to another and can cost anywhere between Rs300 and Rs500. “How many do you need,” he asked. “You will enjoy the taste,” he added trying to convince the man.

Khan’s village was nearby so he said he has no trouble going back and getting more birds if the customer wants. “I have more 30 birds at home and can arrange more if you need,” he said, without any hesitation or fear of being caught. Many of his customers are from Hyderabad and Karachi and stop by when they are in the area. “They have my phone number so they call in advance to ask for a certain number [of birds],” he said.

He told The Express Tribune that he purchases these birds from other villagers. “Our people hunt these migratory birds from the lake every day,” he explained. “The trade is very common and popular in the winter season.”

The district and provincial wildlife officials are aware of this illegal practice but they find it hard to put an end to the trade. “Yes, local villagers hunt and sell migratory birds at the lake,” admitted Sindh Wildlife Department’s provincial conservator Saeed Akhtar Baloch. “We arrest them, confiscate their property [birds] and charge fines but they sell again the very next day.”

Baloch pointed out that members of the wildlife department’s raid team have been attacked by the traders. “Some of the traders were detained with the help of the local police but these men are not afraid of any law,” he said.

The district and provincial wildlife officials are aware of this illegal practice but they find it hard to put an end to the trade. “Yes, local villagers hunt and sell migratory birds at the lake,” admitted Sindh Wildlife Department’s provincial conservator Saeed Akhtar Baloch. “We arrest them, confiscate their property [birds] and charge fines but they sell again the very next day.”

Baloch pointed out that members of the wildlife department’s raid team have been attacked by the traders. “Some of the traders were detained with the help of the local police but these men are not afraid of any law,” he said.

According to Baloch, selling seasonal birds is one of the major sources of livelihood for people living near the lake. Influential persons, including politicians, support these traders in the name of unemployment, he said. “Local leaders interfere in our matters and it encourages these people to continue the business without any fear of the law,” he added. The officer added that this particular kind of trade thrives in Badin, Sujawal and Thatta as well.

“This illegal practice continues due to the involvement of wildlife officials,” said a wildlife official, who did not wish to be named. The district game wardens don’t obey the orders given by their top officials.

Baloch admitted these officials are equally responsible. The district game wardens, whose primary job is to help the wildlife officials, are not performing well, he said.

Taking action on a specific district will not put an end to the trade, said Baloch. A raid team from Karachi, which was led by wildlife officer Rasheed Khan, has conducted several raids near Keenjhar but to no avail.

This illegal practice won’t stop unless the local administration, politicians and village elders are taken into confidence, he said, adding that residents are used to breaking the law to meet their economic needs.

“This is a seasonal business but I earn a good amount every day,” said resident Muhammad Achar. “It was not a common practice to sell birds around 10 years ago and people disliked selling birds on roads,” he said. “Unemployment and lack of job opportunities pushed these people to take risks and cross limits.”

Express Tribune