Sunday, 21 December, 2008

Dead falcon proves Rann is Arab Sheikhs’hunting ground

D V MAHESHWARI (Indian Express)
Dec 21, 2007 (Bhuj)
The story on rich Arab Sheikhs hunting the endangered Houbara Bustard on the Pakistani side of the Great Rann of Kutch, carried by Newsline last Sunday, stands corroborated. This migratory bird of the Bustard family, found on both sides of Indo-Pak border along the Rann, is globally listed as an endangered species. But Pakistan issues special permits to rich Arab Sheikhs to come on their side of the Rann each winter to take part in an annual hunting promotion, which Islamabad endorses as part of its ‘winter sports’ promotion.

Highly placed sources in the Border Security Force (BSF), which man the Kutch border with Sind province of Pakistan in the Rann, now say they find no traces of the luxurious air-conditioned tents specially pitched on the Pakistani side of the border to facilitate the hunting games.

“The VIP hunters, accompanied by Pakistan Rangers (BSF’s counterpart in Pakistan) move around in their luxurious Toyota cars for hunting these birds for a long time every winter. This is just the beginning of the season, and to our surprise we have not seen tents and Toyotas for the past two to three days. This could be due to the detailed report regarding this hunting that appeared in The Indian Express. We have even reported this matter to our headquarters,” a senior BSF official told this paper on Thursday.

The corroboration also lies in the discovery of a transmitter-fitted falcon in the border district on Tuesday. Koli Jusab Ibrahim, who makes charcoal in the jungle of Gaduli village close to the border found the bird of prey, carrying two metal rings and a radio transmitter on its tail. He handed over the bird to the Lakhapat Police, who ruled it out as a spy bird.

Deputy Superintendent of Police, Nakhatra, Dr Girish Pandya said the bird must be from some search organisation in the UAE.

Jugal Kishor Tiwari, an ornithologist, said the bird is a female Gyr falcon. “It was alive when caught by the villager, but died later. I had examined it and found no injury of any kind on its body. I could have thrown more light I been allowed to examine the ring. It had a radio transmitter on its tail. Such falcons are used by the rich Arabs for hunting of the Houbara. It is not a spy bird,” he said.

Kishor and other local bird watchers believe that it must have strayed into this side of the border from across Pakistan. But as studies have shown that the falcon is not the type to birds to lose direction easily, the transmitter might be at fault.

The bird decides on its direction on the basis of the Earth’s poles with the help of a magnetic field in its brain. However, when fitted with a scientific device having a magnetic field, the bird gets confused and becomes directionless. This must have happened in this case also, an expert said.

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