By Sameer Mandhro
KARACHI: The business of smuggling protected birds and animals is at its peak, with smugglers using public transport instead of their private vehicles to move them, it surfaced on Monday as provincial wildlife officials recovered 78 cranes from three different passenger coaches headed to Bannu from the metropolis.
The officials, who were tipped off about the transportation of migratory birds from Karachi to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, recovered 40 birds from one coach and 30 from another on Super Highway near Hyderabad, with the help of the Rangers.
The third consignment was recovered from Dunba Goth in Karachi. After thorough investigations and a fine of Rs50,000 as per the existing Wildlife Law, the officials released three men, Qudratullah, Sanaullah Khan and Muhammad Ilyas Khan.
“We have never before caught anyone with such a large quantity of endangered birds,” said wildlife department deputy conservator Ghulam Mohammad Gadani.
It was learnt that the birds were caught in areas of Balochistan and then sold in Karachi. “The smugglers take them to sell in K-P and Punjab, from where they are sent abroad,” Gadani explained, without disclosing which countries the protected birds were smuggled to.
The Express Tribune also learnt that the trade has been carried out in the city for years, with demand and supply peaking during the winter season when the migratory birds visit Pakistan. “There was a time when we had thousands of such beautiful birds,” claimed a wildlife official. “Unfortunately, they are now moving towards other countries.”
Gadani said that these migratory birds were protected across the globe according the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. “The traders tied the cranes up with cloth and kept them on the roofs of the coaches,” said Wajid Ali Shaikh, the head of the raid party. “Eight of them are injured.”
Another official disclosed that the birds were often kept as pets in Punjab and K-P, with a pair fetching about Rs20,000 in the market. Provincial conservator Javed Mahar asserted that his department was taking all measures to close down this illegal trade in Sindh.
The smugglers often use improper methods while transporting birds. They also take advantage of the weak laws, but Mahar is optimistic that the new wildlife legislation will be strict and will limit such incidents.