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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

UAE donates thousands of houbara to Qatar breeding centre

The recently established Rawdat Al Faras Houbara Breeding Centre in Qatar will receive 1,065 Asian houbara bred in captivity from the UAE.
Asian houbaras have been provided to a centre in Qatar to establish a full breeding flock there. Courtesy International Fund For Houbara Conservation
Asian houbaras have been provided to a centre in Qatar to establish a full breeding flock there. Courtesy International Fund For Houbara Conservation

Abu Dhabi // The UAE has donated more than 1,000 houbara bustards to a breeding centre in Qatar to battle the species’ extinction.

The new Rawdat Al Faras Houbara Breeding Centre will receive 1,065 Asian houbara bred in captivity from the International Fund for Houbara Conservation.

Another 334 were donated to the Qatari centre last year.

“This is all part of a large effort to ensure the survival of the birds which was started in the UAE over 30 years ago,” said Mohammed Al Baidani, director general of the fund.

“After Qatar decided to start their own centre we wanted to share not only the houbara, but also the knowledge and expertise we have gained over the years.”

The UAE and Qatar, like many countries of the region, have a shared heritage of Bedouin falconers hunting the houbara as a source of food.

Hunting houbara became a popular sport and an intrinsic part of the local culture.

But unregulated hunting, poaching and habitat loss have driven down the bustards’ numbers throughout the Mena and Central Asian regions.

Conservation centres such as the IFHC are overseeing a network of international conservation projects that promote protection of houbara’s habitats.

They also track the birds’ numbers and movement, and breed them in captivity for release into the wild or for regulated hunting.

“Through international cooperation we can protect these animals and try to wipe out the black market that is threatening them,” said Mr Al Baidani.

The fund has two centres in the UAE – the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Centre in Abu Dhabi and the National Avian Research Centre in Sweihan.

It has also established the Emirates Centre for Wildlife Propagation in Morocco, and the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Centre in Kazakhstan.

Last year the IFHC released nearly 6,000 houbara, with more than 4,000 released in the UAE alone, and bred more than 40,000. That result was a 30 per cent rise from 2012.

“We hope similar projects such as ours and the one in Qatar are established and we will always be willing to share our expertise and knowledge,” said Mr Al Baidani.

The bustards received another boost last month when Abu Dhabi and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to cooperate in the preservation of the bird.

“We have a duty to ensure future generations can continue to experience the Houbara in the wild, while also preserving our cultural values,” said Mohammed Al Bowardi, deputy chairman of the fund.

“International cooperation is a vital component of Abu Dhabi’s strategy for the houbara and we are very happy to share our knowledge with partners across the range.”

tsubaihi@thenational.ae