ISLAMABAD, Jan 22, 2016:

Pakistan’s Supreme Court lifted a ban on hunting a rare bird on Friday, after the government argued it hurt relations with Gulf states whose wealthy hunters traditionally travel to Pakistan to pursue the endangered species with falcons.

The court ruling overturns a ban introduced last year on hunting the houbara bustard, pending new hearings of petitions by both the government and conservationists. Conservationists say the bird is at risk of extinction if hunting continues.

Wealthy Arabs used to be granted special licences to travel to Pakistan, with falcons worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, to hunt the bustard. Some believe the bird’s meat is an aphrodisiac.

The government last year asked the court to review the ban because it was damaging Pakistan’s relations with Gulf states, key investors in the country. It argued that sustainable hunting of the bustard was the best means of conservation.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the bustard as a vulnerable species with a global population of between 50,000 and 100,000. It has almost vanished on the Arabian peninsula,

Last year Pakistani wildlife officials fined a Qatari prince and seized two of his prized falcons after he was discovered hunting the bird without a permit.

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