ISLAMABAD: A quartet of rare falcons got to live the expression “free as a bird” on Saturday. The birds, allegedly smuggled in from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), were set free by the wildlife department in Broha village near Murree.
According to wildlife department officials, the birds were taken into custody at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) around 2am on Saturday, after custom officials found the birds in a wooden box, being offloaded from flight number EK-314 coming from the UAE.
They immediately informed wildlife department officials at the airport, who in turn took the falcons into custody. However, none of the alleged smugglers, who are believed to be Arab nationals, were arrested as they managed to exit through the VIP lounge.
A source in the wildlife department told The Express Tribune that the Federal Investigation Agency had allegedly abetted their escape due to their influential background.
Following the incident, the wildlife department moved an application in the Rawalpindi District Court on Saturday morning, upon which judicial magistrate Ahmed Ahsan Raja ordered that the birds be released.
However, the source noted that up until the birds were set free, the department was facing immense pressure from certain influential politicians and bureaucrats, who wanted to add the rare birds to their personal collections and offered to replace them with more readily available species of falcons.
According to Lohi Bher Wildlife Park Director Raja Javaid, each falcon would have cost between Rs8 million and Rs9 million. He said two falcons were white, while the other two were grey, with all four being a rarity around the world.
In October 2010, the Punjab Wildlife Department recovered 53 Siberian falcons from BBIA while they were allegedly being smuggled to Qatar. However, the person accompanying the birds managed to escape. The Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench then passed an order to keep the birds in Lahore Zoo, but the birds were released in Sindh a few weeks later.
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