Promoting tourism in the south

Basra falconers request easy entry for Gulf citizens to hunt in Iraq

BASRA, January 4 — The head of a hunting association in Basra is calling on authorities to open the Safwan border crossing to facilitate falcon trade between Iraq and Gulf countries.

Hattab Abdul-Hussein, President of the Basra Hunters Association, says allowing Gulf nationals to visit Iraq for falcon-hunting trips would help support tourism and the country’s economy, while fostering regulated hunting practices. Authorities could identify a specific hunting season and restrict falcon trade to summer and autumn months.

Border officials have noted an uptick in illegal cross border trade, seizing eight smuggled falcons at the Safwan border en route to an unnamed Gulf country.

Iraq’s law on protected bird species imposes a strict fine for trafficking, including a prison sentence of up to three years, a fine of 3 million dinars, or both. Officials can also confiscate any birds, equipment, tools, and transport methods used in their smuggling.

Abdul-Hussein told 964, “We demand that the authorities allow Gulf citizens to hunt falcons in Iraq in exchange for payment to the Iraqi Tourism Board.”

“These measures will create job opportunities for residents of areas near the desert in various cities in Iraq by opening small tourism projects specifically for them,” he added.

According to Abdul-Hussein, there are more than 200 registered falcon hunters in his organization.

Falcons are highly prized in southern regions of Iraq, where they are spotted in the desert, but also in the marshes east of Nasiriyah.

The finest local breeds are listed as the Har, Abiadh, Shanqar, Jurnas, and Taba’a while European and Scandinavian falcons that migrate south during the cold months are the most sought after.

Offices in Baghdad, Diyala, and Basra specifically market and sell falcons to customers in Gulf countries. Prices for genuine falcons vary depending on their type, size, and wing length, and vary between $50,000 and $100,000.

Falconer Hussein Sankar shared that while hunting can be an expensive hobby, it also brings him a lot of joy.

“The joy of hunting in the deserts of Basra and Samawah has a special appeal,” he said. “Falconry is not an easy process; it requires patience. Tracking the falcons sometimes lasts from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

Shankar and fellow hunters use small animals as bait to lure the falcons, then employ a net called a ‘shanshoola’ to trap the bird. He insists that the process does not hurt the bird.

“We respect falcons; they are majestic birds, and we never harm them.”