31 October 2020
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Pakistani authorities said Saturday they had foiled an attempt to smuggle dozens of endangered falcons worth more than one million dollars out of the country.

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Wildlife traffickers catch falcons in Pakistan’s
mountainous north, often to sell them for lucrative profits in the Gulf region,
where hunting with the birds is a popular sport.

Customs officials seized 75 falcons and a houbara
bustard at locations around the southern port city of Karachi in what they
called an “unprecedented” anti-smuggling operation.

“The birds are listed as rare and endangered species
and their trade is strictly banned,” said senior customs officer Mohammad
Saqif Saeed.

He did not identify the species of the birds but estimated
their value to be around 200 million rupees (over $1 million) on the black
market.

Authorities have arrested two suspects and plan to release
the birds into the wild.

The houbara bustard is a desert bird whose meat is prized
among Arab sheikhs as an aphrodisiac.

Falcons are often used by wealthy hunting parties from
the Gulf who travel to Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province every
winter to catch and kill the houbara.

An earlier ban on the sport was overturned by Pakistan’s top
court.

Two hundred rare falcons were reportedly exported
to Qatar from Pakistan earlier this year on special permission.

Abdul Gh Lone

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