Poachers’ paradise: Gulf hunts fuel Pakistan falcon trafficking

Since learning to capture birds as a teen, Muhammad Rafiq has amassed a small fortune in Pakistan trapping and trafficking falcons – including some endangered species – for wealthy Gulf Arabs.

A single falcon can fetch up to tens of thousands of dollars on the black market, which allowed Rafiq to renovate his family home.

“Every season, dealers come from Karachi and leave their contacts with us, and we call them back if we catch something,” said the 32-year-old, from a nearby coastal village.

He recently trapped a peregrine falcon during a one-week hunting mission.

“I desperately needed money,” he told AFP. “And God has listened to me.”

For years, Pakistan has stood at the nexus of the falcon trade, both as a source of the birds of prey, and then as a destination to hunt with them.Falcon poaching is officially banned, but demand for the birds is rising, according to the World Wildlife Fund in Pakistan.It estimates that up to 700 falcons were illegally smuggled out of the country last year alone, often by organised criminal networks.

Their destination is normally Gulf countries, where falconry is a treasured tradition.

Owners treat the birds “like their own children”, said Margit Muller, the director of Abu Dhabi’s falcon hospital, which treats 11,000 falcons annually, a number that has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

One conservationist told AFP an Arab falconer usually owns around five to six hundred birds, most of which will be captured in the wild in Pakistan or Mongolia.

It estimates that up to 700 falcons were illegally smuggled out of the country last year alone, often by organised criminal networks.

 

Their destination is normally Gulf countries, where falconry is a treasured tradition.

Owners treat the birds “like their own children”, said Margit Muller, the director of Abu Dhabi’s falcon hospital, which treats 11,000 falcons annually, a number that has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

One conservationist told AFP an Arab falconer usually owns around five to six hundred birds, most of which will be captured in the wild in Pakistan or Mongolia.It estimates that up to 700 falcons were illegally smuggled out of the country last year alone, often by organised criminal networks.

Their destination is normally Gulf countries, where falconry is a treasured tradition.

Owners treat the birds “like their own children”, said Margit Muller, the director of Abu Dhabi’s falcon hospital, which treats 11,000 falcons annually, a number that has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

One conservationist told AFP an Arab falconer usually owns around five to six hundred birds, most of which will be captured in the wild in Pakistan or Mongolia.

It estimates that up to 700 falcons were illegally smuggled out of the country last year alone, often by organised criminal networks.

Their destination is normally Gulf countries, where falconry is a treasured tradition.

Owners treat the birds “like their own children”, said Margit Muller, the director of Abu Dhabi’s falcon hospital, which treats 11,000 falcons annually, a number that has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

One conservationist told AFP an Arab falconer usually owns around five to six hundred birds, most of which will be captured in the wild in Pakistan or Mongolia.

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