Arabian money buying the extinction of the Houbara Bustard?

In the twenty-first century there is an awful correlation between wealth/influence and the ability to murder wildlife on truly industrial scales. Whether it’s an increasingly affluent middle class in China and Taiwan wiping out sharks for their fins, representatives of European tuna fishermen buying votes, ignoring quotas and fishing Bluefin Tuna close to extinction, lobby groups for Mediterranean hunters bribing local governments with votes to force through derogations to the EU Birds Directive so they can massacre millions of migrating birds, or our own Government offering their buddies in the construction business the chance to make billions concreting over southern England on the pretext of ‘building’ ourselves out of recession, those with money and power seem intent on emptying the planet of wildlife at a rate never seen before.

For some reason I’ve yet to fathom increasing individual wealth rarely seems to bring with it increasing responsibility or care for the environment (the old saying that ‘Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is more true now than when first said by Lord Acton back in 1887). There are a few wildlife-friendly millionaires, but they are the exception to what is fast becoming the rule. Hunters the world over, flush with money gained by exploiting either natural resources or other less wealthy humans, seem to assume that they can do what they want, when they want, to whatever they want. And they’re usually right, of course, because their wealth means that they have far more influence than the rest of us and they are literally almost unstoppable.

A perfect example of how money and influence is being used to wipe out wildlife is the story below: having killed off the local Houbaras from the back of their new 4x4s the wealthy elite of the oil-drenched Middle East are again turning to Pakistan – a largely corrupt fiefdom with a massive population who are mainly too poor to wipe out the country’s wildlife all by themselves, but whose leaders (who are wealthy and from ‘elite’ families themselves of course) are happy to sell the nation’s wildlife to friends and neighbours.

Can the rest of the world stop this slaughter? Can they hell. The eastern populations of Houbara are as inevitably heading for extinction in the wild as the Rhino and the Tiger – doomed by ‘tradition’, ‘culture’, and the soulless egomania that vast wealth fosters in people who don’t give a damn about the results of their rampage through the world’s biodiversity (despite the sort of eulogising ‘heroic men of the desert’ blogs like the one here which attempts to portray Houbara hunters as caring traditionalists who love birds). It won’t be long before this wonderful bird exists solely as the Middle Eastern version of the Pheasant – tame, fat, and bred to be released and killed.

There is an irony in the fact that we are actually living in times when more and more of us are in organisations that exist to fight this sort of barbarism, but the sad truth is that these (too many and too factionalised) organisations also appear to have less and less real influence – mainly, it seems to me, because the lobbying groups opposing them have infinitely more powerful and far wealthier supporters who are far better connected and unified, and who don’t give a damn about anything except making more money and enjoying themselves causing pain to animals. We play by the rules whilst they re-write the rules or ignore them altogether. How the minority of us who do give a stuff counter this imbalance is no doubt being discussed in countless rooms around the world every working day, but right now it’s getting very difficult to see what can be done…though perhaps the ‘New green alliance in savage attack on George Osborne‘ reported in today’s Observer is a hint of better things to come. Let’s hope so. (, 03 Dec 11:

KARACHI: At least 25 special permits have been issued to dignitaries belonging to the Arabian peninsula allowing them to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustard during the hunting season 2011-2012, it was learnt on Saturday.

Sources said almost half of the 25 permits — 12 to be precise — had been issued to men from the United Arab Emirates.

Hunters from the State of Qatar and the Kingdom of Bahrain received seven and five permits, respectively.

However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the largest and the richest country in the region, received just one permit as against the usual two that it used to get earlier, the sources said.

The permit holders include at least three rulers, many crown princes, and other members of royal families. A few commoners have also been granted the special hunting permits.

Only the person specified in the permit could hunt the houbara for 10 days through falconry only and the bag limit being 100 birds, says the code of conduct issued with the hunting permits by the foreign ministry.

The houbara bustard is a very shy bird species and inhabits arid areas away from human population, but at least one of the permit holders, belonging to Qatar, has been allocated the city of Dadu in Sindh for hunting.

The names of the permit holders and the areas allocated to them are:

Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi: Areas allocated to him in Punjab include districts of Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan; in Sindh districts of Sukkur, Ghotki, Nawabshah, Sanghar and in Balochistan districts of Zhob, Ormara, Gwadar, Jhal Magsi (excluding subdivision Gandava), Pasni, Kharan (excluding Nag Dara breeding area), Panjgur and Washuk.

Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the UAE, has been allocated Khairpur district including Kot Digi (not across Nara Canal) in Sindh.

General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, has been allowed to go hunting in Tehsil Lehri of Sibi district (Domki area only) in Balochistan.

Ruler’s representative in the western region of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan: Tehsil Lehri of Sibi district (excluding Domki area), Old Katchi and Sani Shoran of district Bolan in Balochistan; and Tehsils Khairpur Nathan Shah, Ghaibi
Dero, Shahdadkot, Khairpur (area across Nara canal), Johi and Union council Fareedabad in Dadu district in Sindh.

A member of the ruling family, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan: Qila Saifullah district, including Kar Khurassan (excluding sub division Muslim Bagh) in Balochistan.


UAE Vice President and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: Khuzdar and Lasbella districts in Balochistan and Muzaffargarh district in Punjab.

Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: Bhakhar district in Punjab and Jamshoro district in Sindh.

Dubai Deputy Ruler and Finance Minister Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum: Bahawalpur district, including Tehsil Fort Abbas of Bahawalnagar district in Punjab.

Deputy chief of police and general security of Dubai and member of ruling family Major General Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: Districts of Umerkot and Tharparkar, including Mithi and Nagarparkar (excluding protected area).

A member of the royal family, Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Maktoum: District Badin, Jung Shahi in Thatta district and Dhabeji in district Malir.

Major General Sheikh Al-Mur bin Maktoum Al- Maktoum: District Jhang in Punjab.

Nasir Abdullah Lootah has been allocated District Thatta (excluding tehsils Shah Bander and Jung Shahi).


Emir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani: Bahawalnagar (excluding Fort Abbas tehsil) in Punjab.

Heir apparent of the State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani: Jacobabad district in Sindh.

Ex-heir apparent of Qatar Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani: Barkhan district in Balochistan.

Prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani: Muslimbagh subdivision of Qila
Saifullah district in Balochistan.

Brother of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani: Loralai district (excluding Duki area) in Balochistan.

A member of the royal family, Sheikh Khalid bin Thani Al Thani: Layyah district in Punjab and Dadu city in Sindh.

A member of the supreme council of the royal family of Qatar, Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Thani Al-Thani: Turbat district in Balochistan.


Uncle of the King of Bahrain Sheikh Ebrahim bin Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa: Mastung district in Balochistan.

Bahrain Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Marshal Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa: Gandava subdivision of Jhal Magsi district in Balochistan.

Adviser to the king on defence affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Salman Al Khalifa: Jati tehsil of Thatta district in Sindh.

A member of the royal family, Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al Khalifa: Hyderabad district with Matiari in Sindh.

Another member the royal family, Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad Al Khalifa: Malir district (excluding Malir cantonment and Dhabeji areas).

Saudi Arabia

Brother of Khadim Harmain Al-Sharifain Crown Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who is interior minister, has been allocated districts of Chaghai, Noshki (excluding Noshki city), Dera Bugti, Dera Murad Jamali, Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Awaran and Duki in Loralai district in Balochistan and Khushab, Vehari, Multan (Shujabad tehsil), Mianwali and Sargodha districts in Punjab.


Did you like this? Share it:

About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Morocco is also selling Houbaras to the Gulf... - Talking Naturally

Comments are now closed for this article.


Unless otherwise specified all text and images copyright Talking Naturally