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Thursday Jan 28 2021

I am 11. I have petitioned an Islamabad court to ban falcon poaching in Pakistan

Falcons seen at the Pakistan Customs office after a bid to smuggle the falcons was foiled in Karachi. Photo: AFP

I am 11 years old and recently filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court seeking a ban on the export of Pakistan’s falcons to foreign countries.

Every year, Pakistan allows foreigners to poach endangered falcons. The falcons are then trained and brought back to Pakistan to hunt the Houbara bustards, a migratory bird that the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists as a “threatened” species.

For the hunters, the large and powerful Saker Falcon is a prized addition. Poachers often set traps exclusively for the female bird, as it is twice the size of the male. As a result, over the years, the bird’s population has plummeted, leading it to be classified as an endangered species.

Should the bird go extinct, the population of rodents will begin to climb in Pakistan, which will only damage our crops.

Recently while reading an article “The Last Two Northern White Rhinos on Earth”, published in The New York Times, I felt extremely sad. If these two survivors died, the entire northern white rhinoceros species would be no more.

I found it fascinating to read in the article that the first relative of the Rhino, the Woolly Rhino appeared in China, and later in Europe. From the Hyracodontidae, an extinct family of the rhinoceroses, which lived some 55 million years ago, to the Amynodontidae, which appeared 26 million years ago, and finally the modern rhinoceros, there is not a single Rhino species which is not endangered because of humans.

The harmless creature has been hunted and killed due to the high demand of its horns, which are coveted for all kinds of reasons, including their use as daggers.

Around 500 years ago, Rhinos were also present in Pakistan around the Indus plains. There are a few historical records of Rhinos being hunted by the Mughal Emperor Babur near Peshawar, and a sighting by Ibn Battuta near Sukkur, Sindh.

It is indeed tragic that due to the extreme negligence of former generations, the Northern White Rhino will soon perish, putting an end to a 55-million-year-old legacy.

This is why, today, I am fighting for the Saker Falcons.

These falcons are an important part of our ecosystem. If an animal is removed from the ecosystem, the system collapses.

Take the Rhino. For many decades, the Rhino has been benefiting grassland habitats by eating large amounts of dry grass, which in turn would clear the land to let new grass appear. While its dung was food for thousands of insects.

Read more: 'Unprecedented, historic': Pakistan Customs recovers birds worth millions in Karachi operation

Once Rhinos go extinct, grazing lands will become less hospitable to other herbivores, such as the critically-endangered Dama Gazelle of Africa.

We export our falcons to foreigners in exchange for money. But we forget that once we lose these beautiful animals, no amount of money will be able to bring them back to life.

Now is the time to do something, before it is too late.