The houbara bustard is an endangered migratory bird found in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Photo by Johannes Dag Mayer/Shutterstock
ISLAMABAD, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Conservationists applauded Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday, as the nation's top court placed a ban on the hunting of the houbara bustard.
The endangered migratory bird is prized for its meat, which Arab sheikhs seek out for its supposed aphrodisiac qualities. Elites from the Gulf region travel to Pakistan each winter to track and kill the species -- also known as the North African houbara -- using hunting falcons.
On Thursday, Chief Justice Jawad S. Khawaja announced the decision of the apex court's three-judge bench, a branch of the supreme court. In addition to the ban, the court effectively canceled all houbara hunting licenses already issued to by the Pakistani government to Arab royals.
The decision came in response to a petition filed by Aamir Zahoorul Haq, who alleged the government had illegally issued hunting licenses.
The apex court's justices rejected appeals made by federal and provincial officials.
"The federal government has not only violated the federal and the provincial laws but has also breached the international agreements by issuing such licenses," Justice Qazi Faiz Essa told reporters.
Pakistani officials have been roundly criticized since it came to light that Saudi prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud killed some 2,100 birds on three-week hunting trip -- 2,000 more than his permit for 100 birds allowed.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature includes the houbara bustard on its list of the world's most threatened endangered species, its "red list."