Pakistan: Raptor slaughter that is so sickening its difficult to comprehend or watch.

My name is Azan Karam, I am 22-yrs old university undergraduate student studying for a degree in Bs. Zoology at Jahanzeb College Swat, Pakistan. At the moment I’m an active birdwatcher and deeply interested in regional wildlife exploration.

I have been studying diversity and distribution of birds of my district for the past few years. And currently working on birds of Pakistan as well as popularizing wildlife and raising wildlife welfare issues on social media on the edge. Apart from that, I collect insects for fun, which led me to accidental discovery of previously unrecorded genus of a particular insect from Pakistan which is going to publish very soon this year.

swat-valley

The Swat Valley, once home to the Taliban now a tourist attraction with similar characteristics to Switzerland

The Swat valley is located in a district of the  Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. Swat is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty. Being passionate about wildlife helped me go through several episodes of horrible wildlife crimes in Pakistan, including the recently trending “Raptors Persecution”. I believe highlighting these marginalized creatures of our natural habitats will one day bring a positive change across Pakistan.

Pakistan is home to more than 600 species of birds. Among them 64 species are raptors consisting of owls, vultures, hawks, eagles, falcons, ospreys, kites, harriers, and buzzards. Some of these species are year-round residents while some only migrate into Pakistan during the winter.

The Shaheen Falcon, a subspecies of the  Peregrine Falcon hold a great value in Pakistani literature and poetry, and is associated with Pakistan’s national poet, Allama Mohammed Iqbal. Even the Pakistan Cricket Team is nicknamed as ”Shaheens” as well as it used as official seal of Pakistan Air Force logo. In Pakistan, falconry and pigeon fancying is embedded in culture and tradition. A wide variety of falcons in Pakistan are trapped by locals illegally to fulfill their requirements for falconry, many being sold at insanely inflated costs on the black markets or via social media groups. On the other hand these falcons attract Arabs from middle east when every year they bring their birds to hunt the threatened McQueen’s Bustard with these fastest flying birds.

In Feb, 2020 a Saudi Prince was permitted to export 50 falcons from Pakistan that further undermined conservation efforts to protect these threatened birds in our country. The story doesn’t end there; pigeon fanciers in Pakistan recently started a trend of brutal persecution of several species of raptors in retaliation when their racing pigeons were predated by those raptors. Several videos went viral recently in which locals from Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan killed buzzards and eagles physically by beating them to death with clubs or their sandals. This activity received a huge backlash on social media but Wildlife Officials were unable to trace hose responsible despite they (raptor persecutors)  using languages and dialects specifically connected to specific regions of Pakistan, which might have provided clues.

The sickening video above shows three adult Pakistani men clubbing what is thought to be a Long-Legged Buzzard to death with a sandal. The man on the right is holding a second dead white raptor in his left hand.

The above video is truly appalling in every respect, having no place in the 21st Century depicting characterises from the middle ages . The video shows a large indoor gathering of Pakistani men, watched by children, involved in the barbaric and cruel execution of at least two different raptor species. The man dressed in white bludgeons and kick to death the larger bird, possibly an eagle, the corpse of a smaller white bird of prey lies motionless on the floor. Most people living in the west will find the behaviour in the above images and videos extremely hard to understand or except; I entirely agree and am ashamed of my countrymen depicted in my article. I give my sincere apologies, but would ask that everyone of you who has seen these images, to fully support my reasons for making this detail public. PLEASE share this information with as many people and social media outlets as possible for the sake of my county PAKISTAN.

In Pakistan, one can keep particular species of raptors by obtaining permission from wildlife Dept., under special licence. But currently, unlicenced keepers in Pakistan are probably more numerous than those with a licence.

There has been no previous research undertaken on the history of raptors and their persecution in Pakistan till now. After watching videos, I came to the conclusion that some of the men (non-pigeon fanciers) killed raptors for pigeon fanciers as a good deed to show that they cared. While in some cases, they just killed them for fun by shooting, trapping or simply clubbing birds to death. In one recorded case a killed Pallid Harrier was killed by a hunter because the bird was regarded as a threat to the waterfowls which were they were going to hunt. This persecution is not just limited to harriers and buzzards, even vultures are persecuted and in some parts of the country, mostly for fun or out of destructive and ignorant curiosity. Owls on the other hand (especially barn owls) are used in witchcrafts in some parts of Pakistan because of pseudoscientific beliefs by some locals in those practices. Raptors Persecution is not a simple thing in Pakistan but complex involving several entities.

Below I have attached just a small number of our collective images showing the scale of raptor killing taking place in one small region of Pakistan. The widespread activity brings shame upon my country.

booted-eagle01

The corpse of a shot Booted Eagle

Eagle-pakistan-04

Another eagle, possibly a Booted Eagle, shot to death.

Goshawk

The image of a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, placed on a Facebook group, where the person was asking about its price. It was trapped illegally !

Griffon-Vulture

Himalayan Griffon, the largest species of vulture in Pakistan killed purely for fun !

Image-1

Long-legged Buzzard shot to death

LOng-legged-Buzzard-01

Long-legged Buzzard shot

Marsh-Harrier

Trapped Marsh Harrier being kept as a pet

Pakistan-01

3 Tawny Eagles on display to the nearby village after each bird was shot to death.

PAKISTAN-02

3 unnamed Eagles each shot

Pallid-Harrier-body

The body of a male Hen Harrier shot to death

Pallid Harrier Haed

The killers of this Hen Harrier displaying the head of the dead harrier.

Vulture

Eurasian Griffon Vulture shot to death

4 comments to Pakistan: Raptor slaughter that is so sickening its difficult to comprehend or watch.

  • This is shocking, even though I am sure there are equally cruel, cowardly, insensitive people everywhere,including in this country.

    The saddest thing here,however,is the seemingly total acceptance of these
    mens actions, by the wider community. Maybe their lives are so desensitized
    by their recent history,or has this been a cultural thing for generations?.
    Sadly, the authorities seem unwilling, or unable, to uphold the law in this
    remote, wild region.

    The pressure of social media, on upcoming generations( maybe including some
    of the children in these videos), maybe the best hope for the future,along
    with greater education, and the realisation that these birds may have a value through tourism.

  • Stuart Pryor

    Well said Trapit and well done Terry for highlighting this old fashioned and unthinking behaviour by anti environmentalists in this part of Pakistan . Education , Education , Education !

  • MARK BEGG

    I find this behaviour sick and anyone doing this should be caught and punished , I will forever look at this region with different eyes now and my thoughts about people from this country has diminished greatly

    • Azan Karam

      Hi Mark,I absolutely agree that this behavior is sick. But I think seeing all Pakistanis generally in a bad sense is really unwise. Being a Pakistani, I wrote against this practice because I believe in changing minds. There are some really good people too who constantly work for conservation, if you wanna know I’ll surely talk about them. All we need is to constantly highlighting these issues rather leaving them in a bad state.

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