Environment authorities in Pakistan have fined a Qatari prince for hunting rare birds using falcons without permit in the northwest of the country.
Local environment officials said on Wednesday that Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman bin Hamad had been caught with three falcons in the Dera Ismail Khan district of Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Ishtiaq Urmar, a wildlife advisor, said the prince did not have permits for hunting with falcons. Sources also say the Qatari royal had left Pakistan after paying a USD 800 fine.
Arab sheikhs regularly travel to Pakistan to hunt the houbara bustards using falcons.
The Pakistani government began issuing permits to houbara hunters for royals from the Persian Gulf countries in the 1970s. The move was initially seen a way to forge diplomatic ties with them after rival India imposed a ban on hunting the birds.
Last year, a Saudi prince illegally hunted more than 2,000 houbara bustards, which are protected under Pakistani law. The Saudi prince went on a hunting spree for rare birds in the southwestern province of Balochistan.
Thousands of houbara bustards enter Pakistan in winter to flee icy temperatures of the Central Asian regions.
The issue of Saudi and Qatari royals coming to Pakistan to hunt with falcons is becoming increasingly controversial. The hunt has sparked controversy in recent years because of the dwindling numbers of houbara bustards.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has also classified the birds as “vulnerable.”
The issue has sparked outrage on social media and among young activists. They have demanded the expulsion of the Arab hunting parties from various regions of Pakistan.
The activists have blamed the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for colluding with some royals from the Arab monarchies over the issue. Premier Sharif spent nearly seven years in political exile in Saudi Arabia and has close personal ties with royal families of the Persian Gulf countries.