This wildlife photographer hopes to save Pakistan's dying birds with his lens

This wildlife photographer hopes to save Pakistan's dying birds with his lens

I have seen hundreds of birds killed due to water poisoned by pesticides, shares Tariq Hameed Sulemani
08 Oct, 2017

Chirping birds, their colourful wings and free flights have always been a cheerful sight on the horizon of Jahanian until a few years ago; these scenes inspired Tariq Hameed Sulemani to pick a camera and capture them in all their glory.

Born and raised in Jahanian, a small town near Multan, to a family of hakeems (alternative medicine practitioners), he would spend hours tracking wildlife in lush green fields and the canal around his hometown.

Moved by the beauty of nature, he would frequently go to Gilgit-Baltistan for hiking and tracking.

“I had an ordinary point-and-shoot camera, which I would put in my backpack before starting a track,” he recalls the old days. “Over time, I realised the importance of shooting the mesmerising scenic beauty."

He eventually bought professional equipment, with which photography turned from casual hobby to full-time passion. With 12 solo shows in various countries, including the UK, Sweden, the US, Czech Republic, Oman and a couple of shows in Pakistan to his credit, Mr Sulemani has been practising photography for more than a decade.

His exhibitions have worked like an ambassador for the country, for several western photographers, inspired by his works, have visited Pakistan.

“They (Western people) treat us like artists, but here in Pakistan we have no copyrights protection, no acknowledgement or earning from creative photography,” he says.

Mr Sulemani has volunteered to teach photography to local aspirants and trained a group of 16 people. The group includes three poachers, who now shoot footage of wildlife scenes with cameras, not the wildlife with guns.

He regularly organises photography events on non-commercial basis in Jahanian.

"Western people treat us like artists, but here in Pakistan we have no copyrights protection, no acknowledgement or earning from creative photography."

“Jahanian was once known for my grandfather Hakeem Abdullah Rori Wala, who wrote numerous books on hikmat, which are part of the syllabus at Tibbia colleges. Now it is known for our photography activities, participated by youngsters and contemporary professionals from all over Pakistan. In few of events, more than 250 photographers joined in to make the biggest photo walk of Pakistan,” he explains the emerging trends of photography in his town.

He has travelled to almost every corner of Pakistan, except for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan, to capture landscapes, portraits and wildlife. He has a good collections of photographs of shepherds, who migrate to Multan every year from Balochistan, walking with their families and livestock.

It is tough to wait for hours for a single click of birds, says Tariq
It is tough to wait for hours for a single click of birds, says Tariq

For the last six years, birds have been his prime focus. He has captured some stunningly beautiful shots of migratory birds in his neighbourhood, which are rarely seen in south Punjab.

“Though it is tough to wait for hours for a single click, the work is very close to my heart and easy to manage as compared to traveling for portraits and landscapes,” he goes on.

He has serious concerns about rapidly vanishing birds in Pakistan.

“In big cities like Lahore, we are disturbing the natural balance by feeding crows and kites in the name of ‘sadqa’. They are growing in big numbers and are killing numerous small species by eating their eggs.

“Use of pesticides in rural areas has eliminated a majority of birds. Farmers would dispose of empty bottles of pesticides in ponds and irrigated fields. I have seen hundreds of birds killed due to poisonous water, ” he says.

The Wild Life Department is helpless with no powers and equipment to stop illegal hunting. The local influential people, bureaucrats and army officers are killing 80 per cent of the migratory birds every year, and we are the most hostile country towards wildlife.

“Approximately, 2,000 bare-headed geese used to come from Alaska every year after crossing Himalayan range. Majority is killed at Head Marala on the day they arrive. I counted up to 2,200 rounds fired at them in a single day and have seen hunters going back with van-loads of slaughtered birds. It's unfortunate that those who are supposed to guard are ruthlessly killing them. Birds are our guests, who come here to add to the beauty of our homeland after flying thousands of kilometres distance. This brutality must be stopped,” he concludes.

Originally published in Dawn, October 8th, 2017


Gill Haider Oct 08, 2017 05:33pm
Pakistan must enact laws to prevent the slaughter of these beautiful migratory birds. These areas must be declared bird sanctuaries and regulations be enforced strictly.
Gill Haider Oct 08, 2017 05:36pm
Great work by Tariq Hameed, who is recognized internationally but not appreciated by Pakistan.
Nouman Zahid Oct 08, 2017 06:49pm
Good work
Asif A. Shah Oct 08, 2017 07:58pm
Good article! There should be more environmentally conscious people like Tariq Hameed Sulemani in Pakistan.
M Mirza Oct 08, 2017 11:05pm
There was a time when the Korangi Creek in Karachi used to be pink with Flamingoes not anymore because of Phase 8 Defense society development
AWAN Oct 08, 2017 11:35pm
Well done and good aim. Good luck and may succeed in your project.
Dr H A Talpur Oct 09, 2017 12:14am
Pakistan traditionally has been the most dangerous country for migratory birds in the Indian Subcontinent.Most of migratory birds travel thousand of miles with breaks on the way to reach warm waters and in doing so lose about 1/3 of their weight.Unbeknown to them murderers are waiting for them.It is not hunting for the pot that is finishing of migratory birds but it is the mass hunting by feudals,beaurocrats and Army Officers which is finishing them off.Pakistan is already losing habitat for many indigenous birds and with slaughter of migratory birds is losing it's wild beauty.Many birds which used to come to Sindh which used to get about 60% of migratory birds are now flying onto India where they find safety and peace.Something has to be done for this unfortunate country to save it's wildlife and beauty of bush and lakes and marshes.
Saira Oct 09, 2017 01:49am
Dawn should put some of his work in this online article so we can see his terrific work.
Shahzad Oct 09, 2017 02:19am
Great work Naeem Sadhu and Dawn news. I don't know how we can teach our Pakistani people to keep the Environment and Pakistan clean so the wild life can have easy life. Three four weeks ago there was report that millions of Pakistani might not have access to safe clean water but if we do not change our mentality soon it might be whole Pakistan might not have clean water. Also the future generation might not even see any beautiful Pakistani birds and wild life. It seems like no one cares as you can see every cities from sewerage to garbage they are getting filthy and dirty very fast. Soon if our mentality does not change, never mind the wild life human will have hard time surviving in Pakistan.
Rabz Oct 09, 2017 03:21am
Love his inspiration n talent.
farouq omaro Oct 09, 2017 06:49am
Good job man! Hope government pays attention to problems faced by wild birds.
M. Emad Oct 09, 2017 07:04am
Everyday millions of chickens slaughtered in Pakistan.
Jawaid Shaikh Oct 09, 2017 09:03am
Alternative Medicine Refers to a ways of medical practice as an alternative to the most common way. But for Hikmat a better translation would be Western-oriental way of medicine.
BANGASH Oct 09, 2017 09:07am
Such a nice one to be brought to our attention. I myself being a bird lover and currently residing in Dubai though I am born here law protects Birds here. Catching a wild bird costs you thousands of Dirhams followed by deportation. Until our government takes stern initiative and impose ban on wild life killing, this menace would continue. Every country issues licenses to certain people limited of course for shooting birds or animals. However, we are the only nation to live at mercy and give licenses to Qatari Emirs and Arab Sheikhs allowing them to capture our birds and also giving them license to kill. My question is where is our dignity? Until we have dignified leaders and uniform rules laid out we are going to see wild live disappear.
Faraz Azhar Oct 09, 2017 09:35am
Bravo Tariq. Good luck for your photography project.
Tahir ejaz Oct 09, 2017 10:21am
“You may know that experiment of plantation of conocarpus has badly failed in Karachi, as trees are harming the health of our citizens and our local ecosystems. " It is also noteworthy that conocarpus repel birds rather attract them for sitting or build nests over there.
aftab rana Oct 09, 2017 11:19am
Thanks Tariq Sulimani for showing us the hidden beauty of birds life in Pakistan. You are a true ambassador of Pakistan. We hardly see any birds except crows and sparrows around our cities as we hardly care about birds. The use of indiscriminate pesticides in our fields and water bodies and illegal hunting by influence people is a real case of bird life decline in Pakistan. We need to educate our people about the role of birds in beauty of landscape and natural control of harmful insects.
saqib Oct 09, 2017 12:05pm
You are doing a noble work. There were a many sparrows, butterflies, fireflies even crows. But I rarely see any of them now. Glad to know that someone is trying to save them.