ISLAMABAD: In wake of birds diplomacy, the federal government has issued a special permit to the ruler of Dubai to export 25 falcons of a rare and endangered species from Pakistan to the UAE, local media quoting sources said today.

This is violation of local wildlife protection laws as well as various international treaties on nature conservation signed by the country.

According to reports quoting highly placed sources, by issuing the permit to Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, the foreign ministry has put at risk the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP-Plus) status given to Pakistan by the European Union. The move will also promote illegal wildlife trade and trafficking.

The reports said Arab hunters used the rare migratory falcons — Saker and Peregrine — to hunt internationally protected houbara bustard whose meat is considered to be an aphrodisiac, though not supported by any scientific research.

This is the second such export permit issued by the government this season. The earlier one was issued a few days ago to Saudi Prince Fahd, who is Governor of Tabuk province. He had attracted global attention last year when news about his hunting 2,100 houbara bustards in Balochistan’s Chagai district appeared in the media.

The export permit “No: DCP (P&I) – 18/6/2015 – 16/Falcons/UAE” was issued in mid-Oct and sent to the UAE Embassy. It stated that the authorities concerned had been requested to accord facilitation for export of the falcons.

According to the sources, the Dubai ruler’s request for the export permit was made by the UAE Embassy through “Note Verbale No 2/1/3-EP-1577 on Sept 15”.

The permit states that the foreign ministry has the honour to inform the embassy that 25 falcons may be exported from Karachi, Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan Airports for Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

According to the sources, copies of the permit were sent to the Federal Board of Revenue chairman, Member FBR (customs), Wildlife Conservator at Climate Change Division Umeed Khalid and deputy chiefs of protocol at foreign ministry’s camp offices in Karachi and Lahore.

To avoid harsh weather conditions, Saker and Peregrine falcons – residents of colder central Asian regions –migrate southwards to spend the winter in relatively warm environment here.

The sources said that export, trading and trapping of Saker and Peregrine were banned under all wildlife protection laws in the country and there were no designated markets where these birds could be bought or sold. Therefore, they added, the Dubai ruler or the UAE Embassy in Islamabad would have to purchase the falcons costing between Rs10 million and Rs100m per bird from ‘underground black markets’.

Pakistan Trade Control of Fauna and Flora Act 2012 also bar trade (import, export) of Saker and Peregrine falcons.

The sources said that although Pakistan was a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) that monitored international travel of wildlife species, it did not seek any permission from, or pass on any information to, the Switzerland-based body about the trans-boundary movement of falcons allowed by it between Pakistan and the countries in the Arabian Peninsula.

Pakistan is also a signatory to the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) – an intergovernmental treaty aimed at conserving terrestrial, marine and avian species over the whole of their migratory range.

The CMS signatories recently adopted the Saker Falcon Global Action Plan to protect the bird at a meeting held in Ecuador.

The sources said Pakistan had also been given free access to the highly lucrative European markets worth billions of euros under the GSP-Plus facility. The status is subject to honouring by Pakistan of about 30 international treaties, particularly those relating to environment and nature conservation like CITES, CMS, etc.

If the country fails to follow the guidelines provided in these international treaties, it can lose the GSP-Plus status and free access to European markets. The EU reviews Pakistan’s performance periodically to see if it is following the conditions and not violating its international commitments. The next review is due in a few weeks, the sources said.

Conservationists have strongly demanded the cancellation of falcon export permits issued to Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammad and Saudi Prince Fahd.