The government of Pakistan has issued special permits to the Emir of Qatar and nine other members of the royal family to hunt the houbara bustard, an internationally protected bird species.

Bustards are large, terrestrial birds that belong to several species, including some of the largest flying birds. The houbara bustard, which lives in arid climates, comes in two distinct species as recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one residing in North Africa (Chlamydotis undulata) and the other in Asia (Chlamydotis macqueenii).

The population of the Asian houbara bustards extends from northeast Asia, across central Asia, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula to reach the Sinai desert. According to the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), roughly 33,000 Asian houbara bustards and over 22,000 of the North African houbara bustards remain today. After breeding in the spring, the Asian bustards migrate south to spend the winter in Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula and nearby Southwest Asia. Some Asian houbara bustards live and breed in the southern part of their ranges including parts of Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

According to IFHC, the main reasons for the houbara’s decline are poaching, unregulated hunting, along with degradation of its natural habitat.

While Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt the bird, the government invites Arab royals to hunt it every year. This is not the first time the Qatari Prince has got such a permit. According to a report in Dawn, he was granted permission to hunt in late 2018 for a sum of $100,000. The latest person-specific permits will allow the individuals to hunt over 100 houbara bustards over a 10-day safari during the three-month hunting season between November 1, 2019 – January 31, 2020. The hunting area is spread over the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab.

Source: The Indian Express

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