The Taliban have been great for falcons

The Taliban have been great for falcons

There haven’t been many feel-good stories coming out of the tribal regions of Pakistan, which for several years now have served as the front line in the American-led fight against the Taliban and the remnants of al Qaeda. The Pakistani army has launched several offensives to dislodge militant groups, the CIA has periodically carried out drone strikes in the area, and since 2008 at least 163,000 families — the actual number is likely much higher — have fled the violence. But all of this violence and unrest has resulted in an unlikely beneficiary: the local falcon population.

Pakistan’s falcons are thriving, according to an Inter Press Service report. The violence, it seems, has made it too dangerous for hunters and poachers to operate in the area, freeing falcons of their main threat. In 2005, when the birds were labeled an endangered species, there were only 2,000 falcons in the tribal region; by 2008 the population had swelled to 8,000.

Falcons are prized birds in the Arab world, where they are used for hunting, and a prime Pakistani falcon can fetch as much as $100,000. With money like that at stake, it is a testament to the intensity of the violence that hunters and poachers have been largely flushed from the area.

The bitter irony of a brutal civil war creating significant environmental benefits is not something that has environmentalists looking to Pakistan as a model for conservation strategies. Still, the falcons are probably happy.