The love for ancient desert sport, dwindling of the population of Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) in the traditional hunting grounds of the Gulf States, Middle East, and North Africa, and also in some accessible parts of Pakistan through hectic mechanized hunting, has attracted the now-rich Arab falconers to strike at the populations wintering in relatively inaccessible areas of Baluchistan during the last 5–10 years. The present paper is the first known attempt at analysing the multidirectional effects of falconry in that last area, and depends upon the information collected during the Author's tours of different areas of Baluchistan and through information collected from various agencies.
The falconry that is now being done in the wintering grounds of the Houbara Bustard in Baluchistan is liable to have a very severe impact on the birds' population as the summering population is packed in some 1/8th of its summering grounds, thus yielding a very high density of birds. The falconry activities not only constitute a direct assault on the population of the Asian Race of Houbara, with a hunting toll of 4,955 during 1984–85 (a progressive increase from 418 during 1981–82 as reported but in reality expected to be much higher). There is also a significant effect on the population of falcons, some 300–400 being used every year, though the actual toll is probably much higher, as many are lost during trapping, training, transportation, and selling. The hunting parties are also responsible for direct and/or indirect killing of associated wildlife including hares, various deer, See-see Partridges, sandgrouses, Stone Curlew, and Cream-coloured Courser, while some 200 head of antelope were taken out of their ecosystems and sold to, or wasted in the hands of, falconry parties during the 1983–84 season.
The hectic activity of the falconers in the area, and their associated men and materials, are responsible for disturbing the biological phenomena of the animal wildlife, including hormonal balance and feeding activities. The period of mating and reproduction of most of the desert animals coincides with the falconry in the area, and hence these activities result in the production of malnourished, biologically unbalanced individuals.
The indiscriminate killing of Houbara and falcons may result in unbalanced ecosystem, with the massive elimination of Houbara resulting in increases in the populations of harmful organisms lying at lower trophic levels, and decreases in the populations of organisms lying at higher trophic levels. The elimination of raptorial falcons has probably resulted in increases in the populations of rodents in the northeastern part of Baluchistan and hence increased damage to agricultural crops or water channels. The falconry also has the potential of physically destroying the habitat through crushing of the slow-growing plants, denuding the camping sites through movement of men and materials, dumping of nondegradable wastes, and woodcutting for camp fires. The movement of heavy hunting vehicles sometimes causes severe damage to small earthfilled dams that are used for storing irrigation water, slowing rapid runoff, and recharging ground-water resources.