By Iftekhar A. Khan
The government has issued thirty-three special permits for houbara hunting to Arab sheikhs to hunt the internationally protected bird species this season. The high profile list of the royal hunters include kings, emirs, crown princes, khalifas and sheiks. Emir of Kuwait has graced the club of royal hunters for the first time.
To escape harsh winters in the Central Asian States, Russia and China, the houbara migrates to the temperate regions of our country, only to be relentlessly hunted for the gastronomic pleasures of Arab royals. Included in the list of endangered species, its hunting by any means, including falconry, is prohibited. But why do the royals go after the houbara with so much relish and not after any other bird? They contend that falconry is their traditional sport and houbara is an ideal prey for it. The royals however should observe some limit of hunting the bird, least of all killing it wantonly and dispatching catch of the day back to the emirates in refrigerated containers.
By one estimate, six to seven thousand live houbaras are shipped to the UAE every year because of the ever-increasing demand for them. And these birds are trapped by illegal netting and poaching. A typical hunting camp in hunting areas consists of about 300 men and incurs an expense of about a million dollars.
Recently, houbara hunting camp of Qatar’s petroleum minister Sheikh Ali Bin Abdullah in Kech district was vandalised and set on fire. The bandits held the camp inmates, including the security personnel at gunpoint, snatched two Kalashnikov rifles from them, and took away two vehicles meant for hunting in all weather terrain. Luckily, Sheikh Abdullah hadn’t arrived from Qatar at the time. It turns out that houbara pursuit now entails risk of life and limb.
Incidentally, Sheikh Abdullah’s hunting entourage had been attacked in February this year, too, but it failed to deter the royal hunter who turned up again a few months later. The houbara must possess some rare quality for its hunters to salivate over it and pursue it so relentlessly, even at the risk of their lives.
Our Arab friends have a huge appetite for meat. More....