By Emily Thomas
A Saudi prince reportedly hunted and killed about 2,000 houbara bustards -- birds that are considered to be on the brink of extinction -- during a safari in Pakistan earlier this year.
Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud hunted a total of 1,977 birds, which are globally protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Dawn News reports. An additional 123 bustards were killed by local representatives, bringing the hunt’s death total to 2,100.
Each year, the bird makes its annual migration from Central Asia to the deserts of Pakistan, where wealthy elites and Arab royalty often travel to for poaching season. The bird’s meat is highly valued and considered to be an aphrodisiac, Trans Asia News notes.
After this year’s annual killing season ceased in early February, Pakistan’s Lahore high court put an interim ban on the hunting, the Guardian reported at the time.
While it is forbidden to hunt the endangered bird in Pakistan, and banned in nearby India, the government has been known to issue hunting permits annually to certain Arab dignitaries, Dawn News notes. The hunting permit allows for hunters to kill up to 100 bustards in allocated areas. However, the Saudi prince reportedly violated the permit by hunting in reserved and protected regions (and killing hundreds more than permitted) during his safari in late January.
It is has not been reported whether the prince will face any punishment.
Conservationists have been speaking up about the toll hunting has had on the endangered bird population.
"Arab dignitaries have been coming for hunting for decades and decades – it's a longstanding tradition," Tasneem Aslam, from Pakistan's ministry of foreign affairs, told the Guardian in February. "Ten years ago there wasn't so much public awareness about the issue but now we see more voices raising their concern."
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates the bird’s global population is at about 110,000 and declining at an annual rate of about 20 percent to 29 percent due to poaching and unregulated hunting. Video.