ABU DHABI // A UAE breeding programme has released 100 captive-bred houbara bustards into the wilds of Uzbekistan.
The Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation (ECWP), based in the Moroccan city of Missour, freed the birds yesterday in Uzbekistan's western region of Bukhara. Eventually it hopes to release 350 of the birds.
The houbara bustard is widely prized as a quarry for falconers in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, the UAE and Iran. But that hunting and the destruction of its natural habitat is causing its decline.
Abu Dhabi has been protecting the bird for more than 30 years. Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, was among the first to announce the species as endangered.
Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said the birds' liberation emphasised the generous support of Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE, in preserving the country's environment and culture.
"We are proud today that these birds will never [become] extinct and their population is increasing rapidly," Sheikh Saif said.
The birds have been tagged with satellite transmitters so their progress can be tracked.
The International Fund for Houbara Conservation, based in Abu Dhabi, announced in February the opening of two centres to breed the birds, which will hopefully restore some of those wild populations.
In Morocco, about 65 per cent of the released birds have survived. In the UAE, between 55 and 60 per cent survive.
A total of 882 Asian houbara bustards were last year released in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.