Observers

Four men in Pakistan's Punjab region have been sentenced to six months for illegally hunting flamingos along the Indus river.

The men, along with several other hunters, were seen bragging about their haul and posing with the bodies of over a dozen rose-coloured birds near the village of Qamar Mushani, in northern Pakistan, in a video posted on Facebook on April 12.

“No one can hunt with as much precision as we can," one of the hunters says in the video as he holds a remaining live flamingo. "We could catch 200 or 250 of these birds with our bare hands.” His companions laugh beside him, their boat scattered with the bodies of at least 15 flamingos.

The video highlights the rampant poaching in the Punjab region, despite a ban on hunting migratory birds like the flamingo.

"This group of men killed 20 flamingos”

The video, taken by a member of the Pakistan Wildlife Foundation, shocked online viewers, some of whom called the hunters "brutes" and "barbarians." Safwan Shahab Ahmed, vice president of the conservation group, posted the video online and told The Observers it was the first time he had seen flamingo hunting.

This group of men killed 20 flamingos in all between April 10 and 12 using 12-calibre hunting rifles. They were staked out in a hunting blind set up along the Indus River, not far from a town called Qamar Mushani.

The flamingoes were killed along the Indus river.

Illegally hunting endangered animals is unfortunately common in Pakistan, but it is the first time I have seen a case involving flamingos. That really shocked me.

Pakistan is a stopping place for various kinds of migratory birds, including the flamingo, as they travel to their summer homes. While the greater flamingo is not endangered, all migratory birds are protected under Pakistani provincial law. The men in the video are, thus, breaking the law.

A six-month sentence

The police worked with the Punjab wildlife and parks department to arrest the four suspects. The men were sentenced to six months, which can be avoided by paying a fine of 10,000 rupees, or around  €63, department director Hassan Ali told the FRANCE 24 Observers.

I questioned these men, and they said they originally set out to hunt ducks. They said it was pure chance that the flamingos gathered near their hunting blind and they decided to shoot them instead. They said they didn’t know it was illegal.

It’s the first time that I’ve encountered a case like this. We usually deal with illegal duck hunting. In this case, we managed to track down the suspects quickly and sentence them for breaking the law. We hope that this swift action will dissuade other hunters from committing the same violation.

The department posted photos of the suspects in handcuffs and of flamingo feathers found at one of the men’s homes, as well as a series of videos showing the men confessing, in an effort to discourage other potential hunters.

A photo of flamingo feathers, posted on the Punjab wildlife and parks department Facebook page.

This article was written by Liselotte Mas (@liselottemas).