LAHORE: The Saudi and Qatari royal families are, like every year, hunting houbara bustards in the designated areas of Punjab after paying fees which the previous PML-N government had waived.
And the authorities are awaiting the arrival of the members of the royal families of the UAE, saying the limited hunting would not endanger the migratory birds which fly to relatively warm areas every winter.
The annual three-month hunting season starts in Pakistan on Nov 1 and lasts till Jan 31. South Punjab districts are the main hunting areas and major beneficiaries are the Arab rulers.
Officials said on Sunday each group of royal families had paid $100,000 to the federal government for permission to hunt houbara bustards. An equal amount of money had also been paid to the Punjab government for allocation of the hunting area. The permission is for 10 days and each group can hunt up to 100 houbara bustards.
Officials said the previous government was not charging any fees for the hunting for the past nearly three years. They said the group of the Saudi Arabian royal family was hunting the birds in their designated Vehari, Multan, Mianwali and Sargodha districts.
Those from Qatar were hunting in Layyah, Khushab, Jhang and Bhakkar.
The royal guests from Dubai had been allocated two areas – Muzaffargarh and Bahawalpur including Fort Abbas in Bahawalnagar. Those from Abu Dhabi had been allocated Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Chakwal.
Officials said the mandatory fees had been imposed on the directions of the prime minister. For stay beyond the initial 10 days limit, an additional $100,000 would be charged. Half of the fees would be spent on the development of the assigned area, 35 per cent for the improvement of the houbara bustard habitat and 15 per cent on security.
A fee of $1,000 each is for bringing along one falcon and taking it back home. Hunting beyond the limit of 100 birds would entail a fine of $1,000 per bird.
Hunting is allowed only through falconry and use of firearms is prohibited. Only notified dignitary is allowed to hunt. Advance camping is allowed for them which is required to be removed within seven days of the departure of the dignitary.
Officials said as per the federal government directions, provincial, divisional and district level committees had also been formed. The one under the chief secretary and comprising secretaries of different departments concerned was required to coordinate with the federal government for licensing and approved hunting areas, approval of schemes received from the divisional areas development committee considering sector wise guidelines, requirements and available funds, and monitoring the progress and utilisation.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2019