Hunting and smuggling of the protected, demoiselle crane or koonj and Houbara Bustards in Pakistan especially in Balochistan can be extremely difficult. With the theme “Stop the illegal killing, taking and trade of Migratory Birds!”, Balochistan’s Forest and Wildlife Department recovered 29 koonj birds, also known as demoiselle crane, from three suspects during an operation near the Makran Coastal Highway near Lasbela.
The wildlife team received a tip-off that the birds were being smuggled to another city in a vehicle.
Koonj is a species of crane. Its scientific name is Grus Virgo. It’s the smallest among all crane species. These migratory birds travel long distances without landing for water or food.
The demoiselle crane or koonj travels twice in a year and passes through different areas of Balochistan. In September and October, they travel towards south and in March and April they begin their long spring journey back to their northern nesting grounds. A large number of unlawful wild birds’ hunters from Lakki Marwat and others parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this year again came to Zhob, Loralai, Duki and Qila Saifullah for hunting of cranes and other water birds in the crane migrating season.
Wildlife experts believe that the koonj usually feeds on grams, wheat and other crops and relaxes on open banks of rivers and margins of ‘dhands’ and lakes. During its migration, the birds fly in V shape.
Every group of hunters has been hunting more than hundreds of cranes on a daily basis in these areas. This is a violation of the Balochistan Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1975.
To keep a check and to prevent over-hunting, the provincial forest department has appointed four game watchers. But they are almost always helpless to stop powerful dignitaries.
It’s surprising and unfortunate fact that while UAE and Saudi Arabia’s citizens have set up breeding sanctuaries of this bird in their own countries, they descend on Pakistan to eliminate these birds here, while they are busy protecting their endangered species at home, they have no right to slaughter it elsewhere, especially in Pakistan.
The provincial wildlife departments have limited resources and a huge area to cover. It is very difficult to patrol the entire Balochistan to keep a check on hunters and poachers. The obvious remedy would be to empower wildlife departments with increased resources, especially more staffers with better training. Also, community involvement is essential to countering hunting and poaching. Residents of areas where protected or endangered species are hunted need to be informed that instead of killing or trapping the animals, there is incentive in letting them live and roam freely. They can generate income through the promotion of responsible eco-tourism such as safaris and bird-watching. Lastly, the state needs to take action against those who break wildlife protection laws as well as the officials who enable them to do so.
We suggest the wildlife protection department need better surveillance equipment and training besides nurseries for in-house breeding of game animal.
The Chief Minister of Balochistan should ban the hunting of cranes and take strong action against these unlawful hunters and Smuggler.
We Suggest the Balochistan should take measures to protect migratory birds and also promote local tourism at the same time. Many such areas should be declared protected sites and tourist resorts and bird sanctuaries created. This will help generate income for the local populace and save nature’s handiwork for our future generation in an environment-friendly manner.