Article by: Lt Col (Retd) Ernest Shams
Photographs: Azmatullah and Muhammad Arshad
Millions of migratory birds visit Pakistan for the wintering season every year, adding mesmerizing colours and activity to the natural beauty of our country. Among them are falcons, some of the most magnificent and scariest birds on the planet. Unfortunately, they face the brunt of trapping from their habitats and smuggling to the Gulf and Middle-eastern countries where falconry is part of the Arab culture, and therefore, falcons are prized possessions of the Arabs. The passion for falcons and falconry is centuries old.
Despite a ban on trapping, the nefarious business continues playing hide-n-seek with law enforcement authorities which remain on the watch. Often, trappers are nabbed and arrested while transporting the species from one place to the other. Falcon Foundation International Pakistan helps in care and treatment of the rescued birds and also their scientific release back to nature. So far, the Foundation has been in the forefront in rescue and release of hundreds of falcons.
During judicial proceedings against the apprehended trappers and smugglers, the falcons are detained in Lahore Zoo where Falcon Foundation’s skilled officers and veterinarians provide expert care around-the-clock. Along with provision of veterinary medicines and materials excellent quality medicines are also imported from abroad to ensure that the birds receive the best care and treatment during captivity.
An everyday scale of quails are also obtained from Avian Research & Training Center against a certificate of “Disease Free Quails” and fed to the falcons.
Veterinarians of Lahore Zoo join Falcon Foundation to form a composite team of care-takers. This becomes an opportunity for them to learn from the Foundation’s experts how to take care of these powerful hunting birds.
Immediately the Foundation implants micro-chips in the breast region of each falcon, as a means of positive identification. It is a simple and safe procedure, done by a veterinarian, which requires no anesthesia. The micro-chip does not move in the body and cannot be lost or altered or removed. It lasts for decades and remains harmless to the animal. The Foundation recommends that every airport and country exit should possess micro-chips and a micro-chip scanner to guard against replacement of incoming spurious species with precious outgoing birds.
Rings are an additional means of identification which are tagged to the birds and allocate a unique identification number to each bird. Veterinary history sheets of each individual bird and daily attendance records are maintained with the help of these identification instruments.
Jesses and hoods keep the birds undisturbed in location. These are particularly useful to the veterinarians and bird handlers during clinical investigations, veterinary practices, feeding by mouth and training of Veterinary Officers of Lahore Zoo.
When these ‘birds of the wild’ are released back to nature, Punjab Wildlife Department and Falcon Foundation International Pakistan invite concerned conservationists and citizens alike to identify themselves with these beautiful birds, and share their joy of freedom.