Great news for the UAE’s feathered friend as it spreads its wings and edges further away from extinction, with an increase in birds overwintering in Arabian Peninsula.
New scientific data from the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) has revealed that Asian houbara bred in captivity at the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Centre in Kazakhstan (SKHBC-Kz) are following similar migratory routes to birds born in the wild.
Data collected by IFHC from tracking devices and identifying rings fitted to the Asian houbara bred and released in the wild in Kazakhstan indicated that these birds take the same migration paths as wild houbara and move to the Arabian Peninsula during the winter.
The Fund monitored 2,130 wild and captive-bred houbara in the past year through satellite tracking devices, providing crucial information on migratory behaviour.
The research confirms that IFHC’s conservation breeding programme is successfully releasing Asian houbara capable of long-distance migration, underlining the long-term effectiveness of IFHC’s renowned breeding and release programme – a cornerstone activity in the Fund’s strategy to secure a sustainable future for the emblematic species.
The migratory pattern data highlights that captive-bred houbara released by SKHBC-Kz can withstand being in the wild and are following the long-distance migration routes typically associated with the behaviour of wild Houbara.
More birds expected in the Arab Gulf
These results support the Fund’s endeavours to re-balance houbara bustard populations across the species’ range, from Mongolia in the east to the Arabian Peninsula in the west, while reinforcing IFHC’s role as a leader in preserving vulnerable wildlife species.
His Excellency Majid Al Mansouri, managing director of the IFHC, said: “The Houbara project, which was initiated by our founding father Sheikh Zayed, in 1976, has celebrated key milestones and accomplishments in preserving the houbara species, and this achievement is the most important for the sustainability of these birds that are of great cultural and ecological importance.
“These findings are a testament to the success of the leadership’s vision to preserve the Asian houbara in the region and internationally.
“This overwhelmingly positive development reaffirms our great hope of restoring long-migrant houbara populations from Kazakhstan, resulting in more houbara overwintering in the Arabian Peninsula.
“Furthermore, this latest data shines considerable light on the benefits of the pre-emptive conservation model in securing sustainable futures for vulnerable species.”
Call for better protection
One of four IFHC conservation breeding facilities, the SKHBC-Kz will have the capacity to breed 15,000 houbara chicks annually when it becomes fully operational later this year. In 2019, the centre bred more than 7,000 Asian houbara chicks.
Since the 1990s, the pre-emptive conservation model developed by IFHC has been applied to combat threats to the vulnerable houbara bustard and secure a sustainable future for the species.
The International Fund for Houbara Conservation is also leading the call for closer international cooperation to establish reserves, educate local communities and support the implementation of agreements and international legislation ensuring adequate protection for houbara and its’ natural habitats.
His Excellency Al Mansouri called on all falconers or anyone who discovers houbara fitted with a tracking device or identification rings to communicate with the IFHC immediately to contribute to Abu Dhabi efforts to monitor these birds and collect information that will aid the progress of the breeding and release programme.