Less hunting in Iran, more in Pakistan

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002:

TEHRAN, KARACHI–The war in Afghanistan cut hunting pressure
on Iranian wildlife this winter, especially migratory birds, who
have been increasingly heavily targeted since 1997 by French and
Italian visitors–but the war has also contributed to expansions of
hunting in the Sindh district of southeastern Pakistan.
“Between 50% and 60% of the hunters” who were booked to shoot
birds in Iran during the winter of 2001-2002 “cancelled their tours
after Sepetember 11,” Iran Safari vice president Ali Jafari admitted
recently to the Agence France-Presse. Each cancellation cost Iran
about $4,000.

Hunters were, however, more likely to take the risk that
the war in Afghanistan might spread to Iran than other visitors,
said Iranian deputy culture minister Mohammad Moezzedin. The total
decline in Iranian tourism was about 80%, knocking it back to the
low level that preceded the 1997 election of President Mohammad
Anticipating the loss of middle-class shooters, the Sindh
Wildlife Department in mid-November reopened trophy hunting for ibex,
after a 15-year suspension, and authorized 23 people to trap and
trade falcons, despite the objections of a delegation of residents
of the Thar desert.
At last report, the Sindh Wildlife Department was still
considering the request of Saudi prince Badr bin Saud bin Abdul Aziz
Al Saud for permission to capture and export 200 houbara bustards for
captive breeding. The prince claimed to be successfully propagating
bustards at a breeding farm in Tajikistan. Houbara bustards are a
favorite prey of Middle Eastern falconers, who reportedly kill
between 4,000 and 5,000 a year in Balochistan alone, pushing the
species into jeopardy.
The Dawn Internet news service reported from the city of
Mithri that the Tharis objected to the expansions of hunting because
“hunters trapped or shot a large number of peacocks, bustards,
falcons, etc., which are killers of snakes and other poisonous
reptiles. Consequently the population of snakes and vipers has risen
to alarming proportions in the Thar desert, and 2,002 Tharis were
victims of snakebite in 2001. Eighteen of them died,” the report
continued, “due to a shortage of anti-snakebite vaccine at the
district hospitals.
“As visiting wealthy poachers usually give expensive gifts
including luxurious vehicles and gratifications in cash to the
personnel of the wildlife department and influential local families,”
Dawn Internet charged, “they are assisted in hunting.”
In November 2001, residents of Dhanoro village told Dawn
Internet reporter Prem Shivani that when they tried to report two
peacock trappers for poaching, “wildlife department employees
arrested villagers Hingoro and Khamiso, and began to beat them up.
The complainants further alleged that the wildlife department
staffers threatened the two villagers that if they would not pay a
sum of 10,000 rupees, they would be implicated in a fake case of
violation of the wildlife act. The villagers gave the officials a
bribe of 6,000 rupees to save their skins.”
The Thar region is adjacent to the Rajasthan desert of India.
Although the Sindhi and Thari people are mostly Islamic, their
traditional teachings about the sanctity of life somewhat resemble
those of the militantly anti-hunting and determinedly vegetarian
Bishnoi, of Rajasthan, and the Jains, whose religion formed
around the concept of ahimsa more than 3,000 years ago in Gujarat,
just to the southeast.

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