ABU DHABI // An international effort to save the houbara bustard hopes to increase the population of the endangered bird to more than 50,000, the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed said that the International Fund for Houbara Conservation would evolve a comprehensive global strategy for increasing the bird's population in its natural habitats, which stretch from North Africa to Central Asia.
The International Fund for Houbara Conservation was set up last year by the Government after the houbara was named as being vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Destruction of its habitat and hunting are responsible for three quarters of all deaths of the large, sand-coloured speckled bird. Sheikh Hamdan spoke about the fund's future plan during an inspection tour of the National Avian Research Center (Narc) yesterday in the presence of the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the state news agency, WAM, reported.
Sheikh Hamdan is the chairman of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, to which Narc is affiliated. A number of sheikhs and senior officials accompanied Sheikh Tahnoun and Sheikh Hamdan on their tour, during which they inspected various branches of the aviation research centre, including the houbara breeding centre. The centre's mission is to promote conservation of bustards and falcons, and to reconcile the tradition of Arab falconry with a sustainable use of resources throughout the bustards' and falcons' range.
Sheikh Hamdan said the houbara breeding programme, which was initiated by Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE, in 1977 - when the houbara was not endangered - had started to yield its fruits. The first captive houbara chick was hatched in the UAE in 1982. * WAM