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Saudi Prince Hunts Threatened Bustard Bird in Pakistan

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The Prince’s quarry is considered threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. 

The Times of India reports a Saudi prince and his entourage were hunting houbara bustards in southwestern Pakistan. Hunting the birds is illegal since a court cancelled all hunting permits.

The annual hunt has drawn scrutiny as the population of bustards continues to decline. Estimates place the number left in their native range at 97,000 birds. Annual declines over the last ten years are estimated at over 25%.

Local officials appear to be powerless, or at least unwilling, to stop the hunts. One was quoted in the Times story saying, “Arab dignitaries are engaged in hunting houbara bustard but our staff are not allowed to have access to their camp or accompany the hunting party. There is no knowledge [of] how many birds have been hunted.”

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Pakistani government officials are quoted as denying the illegal hunts are taking place. Minister for forest and wildlife Obaidullah Babat said, “They have other kind of activities like inspecting Arab-funded development schemes and meeting tribal elders of the area as part of good will.”

The Times story doesn’t specify the hunting method, but other sources indicate falconry is a popular method of hunting bustards.

The birds are more likely to be MacQueen’s bustards. Houbaras are native to North Africa, but MacQueen’s bustards are known in India as houbara bustards. Both birds are considered Vulnerable, equivalent to Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, by the IUCN.

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Saudi Prince Hunts Threatened Bustard Bird in Pakistan