'Project Lugger Pakistan...'
The reason that Pakistan plays such an important role in the life of Project Lugger is that as a country it still has a significant Lugger population but is also the country in which the lugger population is most at risk, mainly through “Barak” and illegal trapping.
Consequently building strong working relationships, both with the conservation and the falconry community within Pakistan, are very important to the future of our Project. When requested by Pakistan Falconers and Pakistan Customs services to help with the rehabilitation of a large batch of Falcons that had been confiscated from illegal trappers, then obviously Project Lugger had to respond in the positive. By committing itself to helping, in a very hands-on way, the Project has built some very strong and meaningful connections Pakistan and clearly demonstrated to the relevant authorities.
Project Lugger in Pakistan - a mission.
'As the Chairman of Project Lugger I received a call from Mr. Kamran Khan Yousafrzai, President of the Pakistan Falconers Association, to see if it might be possible to help out with a rather special problem that had arisen and needed the help of fellow falconers. As the problem itself involved, amongst other species, Lugger Falcons, the immediate was response was “how can we help” not “perhaps”. However, with Covid still very prevalent across the world making the arrangements to get out to Pakistan quite quickly took a little effort and involved considerably more expense than would at first be envisaged. With Project Lugger being a charity funds are not allowed to be used for travel expenses etc and so any trip would have to be self-funded.'
'The sight that greeted us was one I will probably never see again. More than seventy hooded falcons on indoor blocks. Peregrines, Sakers, Red Naped Shaheens and of course two Lugger Falcons. There had been three, but one had already been used as “Barak” (live bait to catch another falcon) and had died of its injuries before we got there. Also apparently three other falcons had been lost to Aspergillosis and several were showing symptoms of the dreadful disease no doubt brought on by the stress of capture and the subsequent handling. So the priority the nest morning, or rather later in that one was to arrange a zoom conference between the vet looking after these confiscated falcons and one of our Project vets back in the UK. This was accomplished and medication changed and all but one of the sick falcons did in fact eventually pull through.'
'A relatively smooth-running daily routine was very quickly established and the falcons needing veterinary treatment were getting some for of it and those falcons that were low in condition were getting extra food and and an eye kept on their condition. The daily weighing and logging the weights helped in this direction.'
'The falcons were subject to a court case as regards their illegal trapping and attempted smuggling out of the country. Secondly it was still, at that time, the very height of the trapping season and there was a very realistic possibility that any released falcons could well be trapped again. So the court case and prevailing local conditions dictated that the falcons could not be released yet. This of course made things more difficult for those destined to look after the falcons till they could be released...'
'Once clear of the airport we drove to the house that would be home for the next while and had a wash and clean up and unpacked. A bite of breakfast and then it was on to the Falcon Sanctuary in Karachi where a busy day ensued. I had a long consultation with the vet treating the falcons. I spoke with those looking after the falcons and had a long look round at each and every one to assess their condition. Generally speaking things were okay. Avian Pox had affected quite a number since I had last been in Karachi but then a liaison with one of the Project’s vets had helped greatly with this problem.'
Bob Dalton and Kamran Khan Yousafzai not only went on to partake in multiple meetings and discussions with the Karachi authorities, but also took the first steps in securing a site for a Raptor rehabilitation and Research centre, in which Project Lugger would have a dedicated unit. This is a huge undertaking but a crucial first step to securing a sustainable future for wild Luggers, and to engage the locals in the protection of the species.
When the time came to release the Luggers and other falcons, once the court allowed and a safe release site was found, Bob went on to describe the day.
'So now was the moment that the last three and a half years of my life had been working towards. I was going to release back into the wild a Lugger Falcon that I had helped to nurture back to full health, having been seized from a trapper in pitful condition'.
'The equipment was cut from the falcon and the hood removed. I looked the falcon in the eye and momentarily hesitated releasing her. It was my inner self wanting to prolong the beauty of the moment for me. This selfish moment passed in a flash and 'Diana' the Lugger Falcon was launched into the air. She flew strong and hard and I watched till long after she had disappeared from view, savouring the moment and what it meant.'
Founder and Chairman Bob Dalton flew out to Pakistan with trustee Charles Gray. The trip included several meetings with government ministers in Islamabad, with more meetings then scheduled in Gilgit, northern Pakistan. The objective was sealing government backing for the proposed Raptor Rehabilitation and Research Centre in Gilgit. Signifficant progress was made, and Bob and Charles also visited and inspected the proposed site in Gilgit.
The final confirmation for the government backing came in January 2022 when Bob Dalton flew out to Pakistan again. Pen was put to paper and the construction for the site could finally begin. The Raptor Research and Rehabilitation Centre will be ground-breaking when it comes to Lugger conservation - giving wildlife authorities options and support when it comes to managing wildlife trafficking and confiscating illegally trapped falcons.
'Project Lugger Europe...'
Project Lugger is proud to have a strong network of European Partners, working hard to raise awareness, support our breeding programme and contributing to vital species research.
Jean-Michelle Defoirdt, founder of Rapax Raptors in Belguim is a staunch supporter of the Project for a long time. Jean-Michelle is a highly regarded falcon breeder and has not only established successful pairs at his centre, but also greatly assisted in the establishment of other breeding pairs and individuals across Europe.
Project Lugger is greatly supported in Holland, by our good friend and partner of the project Leon Arends, who runs 'Wings of Change'. Leon is assisted by Hielko Van Rijthoven a very capable falconer and bird trainer, who accompanied the Project to Karachi, Pakistan, aiding with the rehabilitation of over 70 falcons. Ecology student Sjoerd Doorn (mentored by Project Lugger Overseas co-ordinatior Tula Stapert) is studying Project Lugger for his Masters degree, aiding with genetics research within the breeding project and looking forward to spending time in Pakistan collecting data about wild Luggers, hopefully contributing to a much needed change in the dated IUCN conservation status.
Highly regarded Italian falcon breeders Paulo Massarrutto and Alessio Galli both expressed an interest in joining the project and accommodating a pair of breeding Luggers and perhaps a second pair in the future. When two female Luggers became available within the project, a great effort was made to source two young males, and in October 2020, four Luggers made their way from our good friend Jean-Michelle Defoirdt in Belgium to Italy.
The Project is grateful to have the support of Klaudia Brommund of Horus Falknerei and also Jurgen and Connie Wiesinger from the Centre Greifvogelanlage Am Spatzenwald.
Project Lugger is very lucky to have the Portugese Falconry Association as a very supportive partner, who continue to spread the awareness of the work being done by the Project throughout Europe and the affected countries of India and Pakistan.
The Project is thrilled to work with Maud and Julien of Faucon Brionnais in La Comelle, France.
In 2020, we were contacted to see if we would like to cooperate with a new venture that was being established in France. “Ecozonia” is a new concept in zoological institutions concentrating on predators and particularly species that need help in the wild. We sent them an adult female Lugger to use in public demonstrations and we are hoping to help them obtain a suitable pair for future breeding.
The Student Exchange Programme
A vital part of the work of Project Lugger is research in Europe and in the field of the countries where Lugger Falcons still exist in the wild. Without up to date scientific research, the correct steps for conserving the Lugger Falcon cannot be made. Experienced falconer and Overseas co-ordinator for Project Lugger, Tula Stapert, is running the Student Exchange Programme between the Netherlands and Pakistan.
In the Netherlands Wageningen University and Research (WUR) has joined Project Lugger - a major step towards more scientific answers on the threats of the Lugger Falcon in the wild.
WUR consists of Wageningen University and the former agricultural research institute of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture. Wageningen University trains specialists (BSc, MSc and PhD) in life and social sciences and focuses its research on scientific, social and commercial problems in the field of life sciences and natural resources. Project Lugger was able to give a presentation and to recruit students for an upcoming DNA research program on the breeding stock of luggers throughout Europe.
Sjoerd Doorn MSc. Student Biology (Netherlands)
To be able to combine falconry with scientific research I joined Project lugger to start an internship for my masters study. I feel like ecological research can benefit a lot from the expertise and experience of falconry worldwide.
Natasha Desai, MSc student Ecology and Forestry (India)
I've wanted to work for the conservation of local raptor species since I was a young girl. Project Lugger is helping me gain the expertise and knowledge I need to be able to do just that!